Can we opt for the law of our nationality when drawing up our wills?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query on electing the law of your nationality

14 June 2021

'I would recommend that you have a will for each country in which you have assets' says John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited Pic: Alex Brylov / Shutterstock

By John Kitching

Reader question: My wife, my son and I are all South African-born British subjects (carrying full UK passports) and long-term French residents, having been resident in French Saint-Martin since 2003. We are currently drawing up our wills. Can we choose to have our wills domiciled in the UK on the basis of being British? We have never actually been resident in the UK, but most of our assets are there (we have few assets in the French territories).

If you are a French-resident British national, as France has signed the EU Succession Regulation 650/2012, you are allowed to make an express election of the law of your nationality to apply to your estate on death.

This election of the law of your nationality can be done by a carefully drafted, validly executed will.

I would recommend that you have a will for each country in which you have assets, so a UK will for UK assets, and a French will for your French assets (even if those assets are small), being careful that each will does not revoke the other, and including the same election of law in each.

If you are resident on the island of Saint Martin, it appears that the French part of the island follows French inheritance laws, although with a slightly different tax code.

I would recommend that you double-check with your local notaire in case there are differences and to ensure that the EU Succession Regulation (allowing choice of law) applies to your territory, as we believe that to be the case. Saint-Martin is an outermost region of the EU and EU law and all the rights and duties associated with EU membership apply to these.

I also recommend that you register both the wills with your local notaire so they can be found easily in the event of death.

The notaire will charge a fee for this but it is small.

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