- New EU Succession Law Could Have Serious Implications
- February 17, 2016
- Law Firm: GRP Rainer LLP - Cologne Office
- The new EU succession law regime has been in force since August 17. The EU regulation concerning succession law could have serious implications for both testators and heirs. For this reason, it may be advisable to prepare a will.
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: The new EU regulation on succession law primarily concerns those who have a permanent residence abroad. Sunny countries such as Spain, Italy and France have long ceased to be just another holiday destination for many Germans who may have acquired property and wish to spend their twilight years there. This can have implications for succession, as the new EU regulation dealing with succession law provides that it is the country in which the testator was habitually resident whose succession laws shall apply. The so-called residence principle thus replaces nationality as the decisive factor. The applicable succession laws are then applied to the entire estate, even if the assets are spread across several countries. The regulation is applicable within the EU, with the exception of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.
Having said that, succession law is regulated very differently among the Member States of the EU, and this can have significant consequences when it comes to the distribution of the estate. For example, the proportional rights to the inheritance may be allocated differently, usufruct treated differently or entitlements to a compulsory portion calculated differently. Moreover, a will is not always effective in each and every case. Berliner Testaments (Berlin wills) and joint spousal wills are notably particular to German law and might not be recognised in other EU Member States.
Anyone who has already drawn up a will and predominantly lives abroad should therefore have someone examine whether their testamentary dispositions are capable of being implemented in accordance with their wishes, or whether the will needs to be amended accordingly. Additionally, it is possible to stipulate in a will that German law shall apply in the event of death. This same is, of course, also true for foreign nationals whose main place of residence is in Germany. German succession law automatically applies to them as long as they have not instructed otherwise.
Lawyers who are experienced in the field of succession law can provide competent advice on all issues relating to the estate.