The European Union Regulation No 650/2012 is now in full effect. This covers “jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession.”
The objective of the Regulation is to facilitate cross border successions making it easier for European citizens to handle the legal side of an international will or succession.
The new rules are designed to ensure that:
• a succession is treated coherently, under a single law and by one single authority;
• citizens are able to choose whether the law applicable to their succession should be that of their habitual residence or that of their nationality;
• duplicate proceedings in different countries and conflicting judicial decisions are avoided;
• mutual recognition of decisions relating to succession in the EU is ensured.
Unfortunately the UK, along with Ireland and Denmark have opted out of the Regulation with the result that the parts of the Regulation which seek to simplify the complexities of cross-border successions will not apply to people or assets in those countries.
For UK nationals living in Italy what all this means is that if no action is taken UK expatriates resident in Italy risk seeing their succession being subject to Italian rules rather than English ones. As you may know Italian contains detailed rules about who is entitled to inherit property and it is not possible for an individual simply to decide who should benefit from his or her estate on death. English law, on the whole, does not contain restrictions and people are free to decide who should inherit their estates on death. The fact that the UK has opted out means that in the absence of a will, or with a badly worded will, technical difficulties and bureaucratic hold-ups will arise, increasing the risk of disputes between beneficiaries and executors, as well as costly delays.
If you already have English or Italian will, now would be a good time to review and ensure that your wishes and intentions are properly expressed and remain valid under the new regulations. If you do not have a will then this would be a good time to have one prepared.
We can prepare the will or wills you need, focusing on what you want to happen with your assets, and ensuring that the tax impact is minimal.
Please contact us if we can help you and your family with your succession, taxation and trust management needs.