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European Union: European Parliament Adopts Draft Regulation on Cross-Border Inheritances

(Apr. 4, 2012) A new regulation adopted by the European Parliament on March 15, 2012, establishes rules to settle inheritance disputes if someone dies and his/her heir raises questions about the estate in more than one Member State of the European Union. Currently, cross-border inheritances constitute 10% of all successions, involving an amount of €123 billion (about US$164 billion). (Making Cross-Border Inheritances Easier (Mar. 12-15, 2012), European Parliament website.)

The new regulation introduces two new rules to govern inheritances involving more than one EU Member State:

a) The place of habitual residence rule, applicable to cases in which a person dies in a Member State that is not his/her home country. In such cases, the courts where that individual had his/her habitual residence would be competent to deal with inheritance matters; and

b) The place of origin rule, whereby a person has the right to prepare a will pursuant to the laws of his/her country of origin. In such cases, a person who lives in a different EU Member State has the right to keep close ties with his/her home state, to ensure that certain inheritance provisions applicable in that state are respected (Id).

In addition, the regulation introduces a new document, the European Certificate of Succession, which is intended to protect the rights of persons who prepare wills and also to protect the rights of heirs and creditors. (Id.)

Lastly, the regulation does not affect inheritance matters of individuals who remain residents in their home country. The United Kingdom and Ireland decided to opt out of the regulation. The regulation also does not apply to Denmark. (Id.)