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Jurisdiction, applicable law and a European Certificate in succession matters

This Regulation harmonises the rules on the jurisdiction and applicable law governing matters of succession in the EU, as well as the recognition and enforcement of decisions, and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in such matters. It also introduces a European Certificate of Succession, to be used by heirs, legatees and executors of wills or administrators of the estate to invoke their status or to exercise their rights in another EU country.

ACT

Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession.

SUMMARY

This regulation applies to the succession to the estates of deceased persons. It is not applicable to revenue, customs or administrative matters.

Jurisdiction

The courts of the EU country in which the deceased had his habitual residence at the time of death shall have jurisdiction to rule on the succession as a whole. Where the habitual residence of the deceased at the time of death is not located in an EU country, the courts of an EU country in which assets of the estate are located shall have jurisdiction to rule on the succession, provided that the deceased had:

  • the nationality of that EU country at the time of death; or
  • his previous habitual residence in that EU country, provided that, at the time the court is seised, no more than 5 years have elapsed since the habitual residence changed.

Where the deceased has made a choice of law in accordance with the Regulation and the law chosen by the deceased is of an EU country, the parties concerned may agree that the courts of that EU country are to have exclusive jurisdiction to rule on any succession matter.

The courts of the EU country in which the deceased had his habitual residence at the time of death can decline the jurisdiction to govern the succession if it considers that the courts of the EU country of the chosen law are better placed to rule on the succession, taking into account the practical circumstances of the succession, such as the habitual residence of the parties and the location of the assets.

The courts of an EU country whose law had been chosen by the deceased shall have jurisdiction if:

  • under specific conditions laid down in the Regulation, a court previously seised has declined jurisdiction in the same case;
  • the parties to the proceedings have agreed to confer jurisdiction on the courts of that EU country;
  • the parties to the proceedings have expressly accepted the jurisdiction of the court seised.

Applicable law

Unless otherwise provided for in this Regulation, the law applicable to the succession as a whole shall be the law of the country in which the deceased had his habitual residence at the time of death.

A person may choose as the law to govern his succession the law of the country whose nationality he possesses at the time of making the choice or at the time of death. A person with multiple nationalities may choose the law of any of the countries whose nationality he possesses.

The law governs in particular:

  • the causes, time and place of the opening of the succession;
  • the determination of the beneficiaries, of their respective shares and of any obligations imposed on them by the beneficiary, and the determination of other succession rights;
  • the capacity to inherit;
  • disinheritance and disqualification by conduct;
  • the transfer to the heirs and, as the case may be, to the legatees of assets, rights and obligations forming part of the estate;
  • the powers of the heirs, the executors of the wills and other administrators of the estate, without prejudice to specific rules on the appointment and powers of an administrator of the estate in certain situations;
  • liability for the debts under the succession;
  • the disposable part of the estate, the reserved shares and other restrictions on the disposal of property upon death, as well as claims which persons close to the deceased may have against the estate or the heirs;
  • any obligation to restore or account for gifts, advancements or legacies when determining the shares of the different beneficiaries;
  • the sharing-out of the estate.

Recognition and enforceability of decisions

Decisions given in an EU country shall be recognised throughout the EU without any special procedure being required.

Decisions enforceable in the EU country where they have been given shall be enforceable in another EU country when, on the application of an interested party, they have been declared enforceable there by the local court or competent authority.

Acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments

Authentic instruments established in an EU country shall have the same evidentiary effects in another EU country as it has in the EU country where they have been established, or the most comparable effects, provided that this is not manifestly contrary to public policy in the EU country concerned.

Authentic instruments enforceable in the EU country where they have been established shall be enforceable in another EU country when, on the application of an interested party, they have been declared enforceable there by the local court or competent authority.

European Certificate of Succession

This Regulation creates a European Certificate of Succession which is for use by heirs, legatees having direct rights in the succession, and executors of wills or administrators of the estate who, in another EU country, need to invoke their status or to exercise their rights as heirs or legatees and/or their powers as executors of wills or administrators of the estate. Once issued, the Certificate is effective in all EU countries without any special procedure being required.

Final provisions

This Regulation shall apply to the succession of persons who die on or after the 17 August 2015. Choices of law and dispositions of property upon death made prior to that date are valid under specific conditions laid down in the Regulation.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EU) No 650/2012

16.8.2012

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OJ L 201 of 27.7.2012

Last updated: 16.01.2013
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