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EU inheritance law can help Britons

Despite the UK’s EU inheritance regulation opt-out, experts say it can apply to British citizens, wherever they live

THE EU inheritance regulation, which came into force yesterday, benefits citizens and residents of the UK despite the UK opt-out, experts have told Connexion.

This means residents of the UK can have UK inheritance law applied to holiday homes in France, just as Britons living in France can have it applied to their French homes.

Our new helpguide, French Inheritance Law 2015, clarifies this point in detail.

This comes as some readers have contacted us confused over conflicting reports as to whether Britons can benefit if they live in the UK.

In fact, the French Justice Ministry has said it plans to apply the new regulation to all nationalities and all countries’ residents in the same way and that UK residents can benefit even if they make no choice of UK law in a will, if they die resident in the UK. However due to a clash with the UK’s treatment of the regulation, lawyers told Connexion UK residents should make the choice explicit to avoid potential problems.

An explicit choice in a will is also essential if Britons (or people of other nationalities, including non-EU ones) who live in France, want the law of their country of nationality to apply to their whole estate including property in France.

Notaire François Trémosa, with the Groupe Monassier in Toulouse, who helped draft the original proposal that sparked the regulation in 2009, explained the position being taken by the French notaires, who deal with inheritance and property sales in France.

“If a British person living in the UK owns a property in France, the property will be governed by, for example, English law if they made a choice for English law. If there is no choice, the property would be governed by French law, due to the renvoi [‘sending back’] done by English law to French law [under the ordinary private international law rules] and the French notaire would apply French law, which would be simpler, because it’s what he or she knows best.”

Mr Trémosa added that people should also bear in mind that making use of English (or Scottish, or other nationalities’) law is unnecessary in many cases (for example where people want to leave most of their property to their children, in fairly similar amounts).

In many other cases, existing French mechanisms, such as buying a house with a tontine clause to protect the surviving spouse, may be preferable to using non-French law.

For more on these topics, our French Inheritance Law guide is available to buy, either as a printed version posted out or as a PDF download, here: Helpguides or by calling 0033 (0)6 40 61 71 97.

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