The new rules aim to ease succession across the EU by giving individuals the chance to opt either for the law of the country of their nationality or their last habitual residence to be applicable to their inheritance across Europe. The default position will mean the law of the country where someone is a habitual resident when they die governs succession to their estate as a whole.
The UK has opted out of the new rules, but the changes will still have an impact on UK citizens with properties or other assets in the EU.
The rules allow people to opt out of ‘forced heirship’ rules that apply in a number of EU countries and govern how assets are passed on within a family after death. As an example of how the rule will work practically, the Society of Trust and Estate said previously a woman in the UK with a property in France would have been obliged to leave it to her husband and children under French forced heirship rules. Now under the new succession rule she could instead choose to apply UK law to the property, which would allow her to leave the house to her brother instead. But for citizens who were not born in the UK, it could mean that English laws will now be applied to their overseas assets without them realising.