National rules on inheritance vary considerably between Member States (as to 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 of new European rules on 4 July 2012 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, by default the last habitual residence of the deceased determines the law applicable to the succession and the competent court, however, citizens can choose to have the law of their nationality be applied to their succession. This avoids parallel proceedings and conflicting judicial decisions and the mutual recognition of decisions relating to succession in the EU is ensured.
On 9 December 2014, the Commission adopted the Implementing Regulation which determines the forms available for use under the Regulation. Among these forms is the European Certificate of Succession, which will make it much easier for heirs, administrators of estate and executors of wills to prove their status and to assert their rights in other Member States. These forms can be used as of 17 August 2015.
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom did 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.
Please click on the relevant country flags on the right hand side to consult the factsheets concerning national succession law and procedures in each Member State. The factsheets were prepared by the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters (EJN-civil) in cooperation with the Council of the Notariats of the EU (CNUE).
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Last update: 11/02/2015