Brussels IV – The simplification of European Succession Law and the UK

Wednesday 28th September 2016

In 2015 EU Succession Law was changed with the introduction of Brussels IV. Brussels IV applies to deaths after 17 August 2015 and is intended to simplify the succession law in line with free movement. The main mission is to make sure that a court of a single jurisdiction will apply to the estate of the individual. The UK, together with Ireland and Denmark, had already opted out of Brussels IV prior to the Brexit vote however Brussels IV may still be relevant if you have assets in any of the European countries which have signed up.

The default position is that the law of the state in which you are “habitually resident” will apply. For example, if you decided to retire to France, and rent a property there, it is likely that you would be viewed as “habitually resident” in France. Your domicile, however, may still be that of England and Wales. As the UK is not signed up to Brussel IV this could cause a conflict and create issues in the administration of your estate.

To overcome this conflict then the default position can be overturned if there is a jurisdiction which you are “manifestly” more closely connected to. Alternatively, you can elect the law of your nationality to apply to all assets across the Brussels IV zone (in this case France). If you have more than one nationality you may choose the law of any one of them (including England). As long as the law that is selected falls into one of the above categories then it does not need to be the law of a country signed up to Brussels IV.

Such selection should be made in your Will and we would also recommend getting advice from your lawyer in each jurisdiction you have assets in. Therefore, if you do hold any assets abroad we would recommend reviewing your will to see if it is affected by Brussels IV.

If you would like to discuss Brussels IV in more detail and how this may affect you, or if you simply wish to review your affairs generally and ensure they are up to date, please do not hesitate to contact Diana Smart on  0113 227 0389