Brussels, 26 July 2012
EU rules to ease cross-border successions are now law
New European Union rules to reduce legal headaches when a family member with property in another EU country passes away will be published in the Official Journal tomorrow. This means that they are becoming EU law. The new regulation on cross-border successions, proposed by the European Commission, and formally adopted by EU Member States last month (IP/12/576), will make it easier for European citizens to handle the legal side of an international will or succession. The rules will bring legal certainty to the estimated 450,000 European families dealing with an international succession each year. With over 12.3 million EU citizens resident in another EU country, the rules are likely to be of interest to many more. Member States now have three years to align their national laws so that the new EU rules become effective.
"After making life easier for couples involved in a cross-border divorce, we have now done the same for families dealing with the legal fallout after the loss of a loved one," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s Vice-President. "Separate rules on successions in each EU country used to lead to a legal maze. With this law we are simplifying processes and bringing legal security to citizens. With this EU regulation in place we are making it easier to identify which law will apply in each case. This is just one example of how the European Union is working to resolve everyday legal problems and save money for Europeans."
The new law makes it considerably simpler to settle international successions by providing a single criterion for determining both the jurisdiction and the law applicable in cross-border cases: the deceased's habitual place of residence. It also permits citizens to plan their succession in advance in full legal certainty. The law also provides for a European Certificate of Succession, which will allow people to prove that they are heirs or administrators of a succession without further formalities throughout the EU. This will represent a considerable improvement from the current situation in which citizens have great difficulty exercising their rights. The result will be faster and cheaper procedures, saving people time and money in legal fees.
On 14 October 2009, the Commission proposed a regulation to simplify the settlement of international successions (see IP/09/1508). Under the regulation, there will be a single criterion for determining both the jurisdiction of the authorities and the law applicable to a cross-border succession: the deceased's habitual place of residence. People living abroad will, however, be able to opt to have the law of their country of nationality apply to the entirety of their succession. So a German pensioner living in Portugal could for example choose to apply German law when planning his or her succession.
The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee and the European Parliament plenary voted on a report on the draft legislation in March 2012 (see IP/12/209). The EU's Member State governments, represented in the Council of the EU, then finally adopted the new law on 7 June 2012 (IP/12/576).
Tomorrow's publication of the regulation in the Official Journal of the European Union forms part of the European Commission's continuous effort to improve the rights of EU citizens. Since 9 May, the Commission has launched a public consultation on citizens' rights to identify possible obstacles citizens still face when travelling in Europe or when shopping online for example (IP/12/461). The consultation will be open until 9 September and the input received will feed directly into the 2013 EU Citizenship Report to be presented next May.
For more information
European Commission – Family matters and successions:
Justice Directorate General Newsroom:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner: