National rules on inheritance vary considerably between Member States (as in who inherits, what the portions and reserved shares are, how wide the testamentary freedom is, how the estate is to be administered, how wide the heirs' liability of debts is, etc.). In cross-border inheritance cases, it is imperative to determine which law applies and which court has jurisdiction to deal with the case.
A major step to facilitate cross border successions was the adoption on 4 July 2012 of new European rules which will make it easier for European citizens to handle the legal side of an international will or succession. These new rules apply to the succession of those who die on or after 17 August 2015.
The Regulation will make sure that a given succession is treated coherently, under a single law and by one single authority. In principle, the last habitual residence of the deceased determines the law applicable to the succession and the competent court, however, citizens can choose whether the law applicable to their succession should be that of their nationality. This avoids parallel proceedings and conflicting judicial decisions and the mutual recognition of decisions relating to succession in the EU is ensured.
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom do not take part in the Regulation. As a result, succession procedures opened in these three Member States will continue to be dealt with by national rules only.
Matters of inheritance tax law are excluded from the scope of the Regulation.
For further information on the inheritance laws of other Member States, please consult the authorities of your country or those of the country concerned. You can also consult the website http://www.successions-europe.eu/ which is owned by the Council of the Notariats of the European Union.
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Last update: 18/02/2014