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Last checked : 30/04/2018

Planning your cross-border inheritance

You can choose the law of your country of nationality to apply to your inheritance

Your inheritance also know legally as succession will usually be handled by an authority - often a court or a notary – in the EU country where you last lived. This authority will in most cases apply its own national law to your inheritance.

EU rules however allow you to choose that the law of your country of nationality should apply to your inheritance – whether this is an EU country or not.

If you have several nationalities, you can choose the law of any of your nationalities.

You should express your choice of law explicitly and clearly, in a will or in a separate declaration. Your will or declaration will be considered valid if it meets the requirements of:

When authorities can refuse to apply your choice of law

What the law applicable to your inheritance will govern

The national law applicable to your inheritance, whether it is the law of the EU country where you last lived or the law of your home country, will govern the inheritance of all your assets, regardless of their location and of whether they are movable (for example, a car or a bank account) or immovable (for example, a house).

That national law will determine issues such as:

EU rules on inheritance do not determine which authority will handle or which law will apply to certain matters linked to succession, such as:

Sample story

Nigel is a British pensioner who moved to France upon retirement, where he owns a house and has been living for more than 8 years – the last 5 with his partner Anne.

As Nigel lived in France, it may be convenient for Nigel's heirs to settle the inheritance with a notary in France. French law will in principle govern Nigel's inheritance as France was the last country where he lived. French law will thus determine who is to inherit, including what shares of the estate should be reserved for Nigel's children and what are Anne's rights to the estate given that Nigel and Anne were not married.

English law gives Nigel more freedom to decide who should inherit his estate. That is why he decides to indicate in his will that English law should apply to his inheritance, and designates Anne to inherit all of his French property.

Find out about national inheritance laws

Information on procedures, beneficiaries and their shares, valid wills and much more, for each EU country:

Choose:

  • Austriaaten
  • Belgiumbeen
  • Bulgariabgen
  • Croatiacren
  • Cypruscyen
  • Czech Republicczen
  • Estoniaeeen
  • Finlandfien
  • Francefren
  • Germanydeen
  • Greecegren
  • Hungaryhuen
  • Italyiten
  • Latvialven
  • Lithuanialten
  • Luxembourgluen
  • Maltamten
  • Netherlandsnlen
  • Polandplen
  • Portugalpten
  • Romaniaroen
  • Slovakiasken
  • Sloveniasien
  • Spainesen
  • Swedenseen

Managing a cross-border inheritance

Find out how your family and other people close to you can manage your inheritance if more than one EU country is involved.

EU legislation

Need more information on rules in a specific country?

Need support from assistance services?

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