Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Brussels sprouts legacy confusion

The adoption of an EU rule governing wills may have been avoided by the UK but that doesn’t necessarily stop it applying to UK citizens.

Brussels IV is the new EU Succession Regulation which arrived last August and applies to all EU members, with the exception of the UK, Ireland, and Denmark.  It allows you to choose the law you wish to apply to the succession of your estate.  With many UK farmers opting to invest in land in the EU, the effects of Brussels IV will apply.

English law applies to the succession of estates in the UK and if you own assets abroad, those assets are governed by the succession rules in the country where your assets are held.

However, if you haven’t made a Will or made a choice of law, then the EU country’s courts would simply apply its own succession rules in deciding who the beneficiaries are and how the property is to be divided amongst them.

By choosing English law you can avoid foreign forced heirship rules. This ensures your property goes to the beneficiaries you intend it to go to. In turn, this may affect the way in which local and UK death duties apply. For example, in some jurisdictions assets are taxed at different rates depending on who the beneficiaries are, and assets passing to a surviving spouse may not be exempt from tax in another country as they are in the UK. Special tax exemptions for agricultural or business property may also vary from country to country.

If you own property abroad, you may need to review your UK or foreign wills for possible inclusion of a choice of law provision. But take care to ensure that a new foreign Will does not inadvertently revoke an English Will.
With such a highly complex topic, seek professional advice to assess exactly what constitutes the right formula for you.

Tim Jones

Tim JonesFRICS

Partner - Head of Rural Division

Tim is head of the firm's Rural Division and of the Cambridge office, although he spends a considerable amount of time in London.  He has over 20 years experience in advising institutional and pri...

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