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Inheritance in the EU

Citizens of both EU and non-EU countries who are resident in Cyprus may choose which EU country’s courts will have jurisdiction to deal with the inheritance and which law the courts will apply.

EU_inheritance FOLLOWING the article I published on 16th September ‘EU citizens review your Cyprus Wills’, I have been inundated with questions relating to the EU Regulation No 650/2012 and what it means in practice and where the forms may be obtained.

The Publications Office of the European Commission has published an explanatory leaflet, which I hope will help answer many of the questions I’ve received:

Cross-border successions made simpler

Until recently, the existence of different national rules made inheritances involving more than one EU country complex and costly. New EU legislation makes cross-border inheritance simpler by clarifying which EU country’s courts will have jurisdiction to deal with the inheritance and which law the courts will apply.

How does it work?

Under the new rules, the courts of the EU country where the person usually lived at the time of their death will deal with the inheritance and will apply the law of that EU country. However, citizens can choose the law of their country of nationality to apply to their estate, whether it is an EU or a non-EU country.

Judgments on inheritance given in one EU country will now be automatically recognised in other EU countries.

In addition, a European Certificate of Succession enables people to prove in other EU countries that they are the heirs, legatees, executors of the will or the administrators of the estate.

National laws on inheritance still apply

The following matters are still governed by national law:

  • Who is to inherit and what share of the estate goes to the children and the spouse
  • Property law and family law
  • Tax issues related to the succession assets

Who does it apply to?

The new rules apply in all EU countries except for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.

This means that people living in any of these three countries are not subject to the new EU rules. On the other hand, British, Irish or Danish citizens living in other EU countries can benefit from the new EU rules.

What is covered by the new EU legislation?

  • Civil law aspects of the succession (beneficiaries, transfer of assets, rights, obligations, etc.)

What is not covered by the new EU legislation?

  • Matrimonial property regimes
  • Trusts
  • Taxes
  • Companies

Advantages

The new EU rules offer several advantages:

  • Greater clarity
    a cross-border inheritance will now be settled by only one court and only one law will apply to it. The new rules provide legal certainty and enable a faster and easier resolution of cross-border inheritances.
  • More choice
    citizens preparing a will can now choose to have the law of their country of nationality applied to the totality of their estate, even if they live in another EU country and have assets in different countries. The new rules facilitate succession planning.
  • Simpler and cheaper
    whether you are an heir, a legatee, the executor of the will or the administrator of the estate, you can now prove your rights and powers with the European Certificate of Succession anywhere in the EU.

For more information

Visit the European e-Justice Portal:
https://e-justice.europa.eu

In the European e-Justice Portal, you will find information on the new EU rules, the form for the European Certificate of Succession, summaries of EU countries’ succession law and the authorities that deal with successions in EU countries.

Further reading

Inheritance in the EU Cross-border successions made simpler

European Certificate of Succession

Readers' comments

Comments on this article are no longer being accepted.

  • Wendy Hughes says:

    Regarding the seminar on Wednesday (presumably 30/09?) will you be putting a summary of the proceedings up on the web page? I’m sure this would be very useful for people like me who would have liked to attend if they had known about it earlier.

    (Editor’s comment: The seminar was arranged for members of the Cyprus Third Age (C3A) and their guests. The underlying message was to review your Wills and then seek guidance on estate planning on how your needs can be met. In some cases Cyprus’ forced heirship rules may suit your requirements, but in other cases not. There are many options available; which one will suit you depends on your requirements.)

  • tricia says:

    I live in Cyprus where can I get the form to have my will under UK law.

    (Editor’s comment: There isn’t a form – you’ll need to discuss the matter with your lawyer. The forms included in the article are declarations.)

  • Alex Walker says:

    This is clear and concise, unlike the previous article.

  • Johnny Cyprus says:

    Thank you editor – I think you did explain it rather well in the article; under the new rules “the courts of the country where the individual usually lived at the time of their death will deal with the inheritance and apply the law of that EU country”

    So, under the new rules, providing you do not live in Cyprus, surely you would not be subject to their succession laws(?) The UK courts would deal with the matter. Cyprus residents, however would need to take steps to avoid unwelcome Cypriotic interference in the distribution of their estates.

    The new rules do not apply within the UK, but does that simply mean that the UK courts would not necessarily recognise a UK will choosing jurisdiction outside the UK? As we know, for IHT purposes, if you are domiciled in the UK, your worldwide assets are taxable, irrespective of where you are living when you die.

    I suppose the UK rules of distribution, however gave the testator complete flexibility of distribution and therefore, it was argued, the new EU rules were not relevant there.

    Back in Cyprus, under the old rules there was no enforced succession of Cyprus property for those of UK origin, whether or not there was a Cyprus will. I don’t see how the new rules introduce a new danger for non residents now.

    Is it that something has changed under these new rules such that if a UK resident has a Cyprus will – they would be subject to enforced heirship unless it was willed that the estate were to be administered in the UK? That would not seem the be what was intended by the legislation.

    (Editor’s comment: I have organised a seminar on Wednesday in Limassol regarding the implications of the change in the legislation & EU Regulation. Hopefully things will be clearer after that.)

  • Molliemoo says:

    The following matters are still governed by national law:

    Who is to inherit and what share of the estate goes to the children and the spouse.

    Does this mean my chosen inheritees of my assets in Cyprus contained in my UK registered Will wont be honoured if I live in Cyprus?

    Thanks

    (Editor’s comment: I have organised a seminar on Wednesday in Limassol to discuss the implications of the changes to law and EU regulation. Hopefully your question along with many others will be answered then. An English lawyer will be presenting – a foot in both camps.)

  • Johnny Cyprus says:

    I am grateful to the editor for setting out the requirement that UK wills relating to Cyprus property still have to be resealed in Cyprus.

    Thus there might still be an advantage in them having a separate Cyprus will, although it would be purely to expedite the probate procedure in Cyprus.

    I am no expert, but it might be appropriate to emphasise that UK residents with Cyprus wills should not need to go to the expense of adding a codicil or amending their wills because of this legislation. As the editor says, it does not affect them.

    Incidentally, under the new EU rules, it would appear that a person who has successfully changed their domicile from the UK to Cyprus could still avoid both UK IHT and the forced heirship of Cyprus succession rules.

    (Editor’s comment: I may not have explained it clearly. If a UK resident has a will in Cyprus to cover their assets on the island, if they do not something about it – add codicil or whatever – on their death their estate will be disposed of according to the Wills and Inheritance laws of Cyprus, which include ‘forced heirship’.

    It is extremely difficult to change your domicile from the UK.)

  • Johnny Cyprus says:

    This change seems not to affect a person resident in the UK, who owns property in Cyprus.

    But, is it now necessary for such a person to have a Cyprus will at all? It would appear that a UK will alone would be adequate.

    Until now all property owners have been advised to to write a Cyprus will, irrespective of where they reside.

    It has been suggested that such non resident owners should amend their wills to state where the estate will be dealt with, but would this be an unnecessary expense?

    (Editor’s comment: As the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark have not adopted the EU Regulation, it is not possible non-resident owners living in them to state under which rules their estate will be dealt with.

    However, you can make a will in the UK covering your assets in Cyprus. But if you do that the will has first to be proved in a UK court (go through probate) – and then the probate has to go though a process known as resealing, which confirms to the Cypriot court that probate has been granted in another jurisdiction (UK).

    The resealing process takes around a year – and the charges involved are as much if not more than having a separate will drawn up in Cyprus.)

  • Steve R says:

    Having dealt with the Cypriot legal system for over 10 years, would anybody trust a Cyprus solicitor to deal with something as complex as an inheritance. It would probably take years to sort out and you may end up with nothing. I am sure there are decent solicitors in Cyprus and if anybody manages to find one would you forward their details.

    The legal system in Cyprus just leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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