Eurovision – Will Brussels IV affect your Will?
When I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest recently I naively thought that the UK would do well for a change because our European neighbours would take the opportunity to show some goodwill ahead of the Brexit negotiations by giving us some points.
To be fair, our song this year did do better than usual, so maybe there was a Brexit effect (conveniently ignoring the fact that 12 of our points came from that well known central European country of Australia).
Watching the Eurovision Song Contest also got me thinking about EU Directive 650/2012 (also known as Brussels IV). I know how to have a fun Saturday night.
The Directive was aimed at simplifying situations in which people die owning assets in more than one country. The traditional problem has been that the laws relating to how assets should be dealt with when somebody dies can differ from country to country and each country’s laws may not necessarily correspond with others. For example, if an English client died while owning a holiday home abroad, the law of England and Wales might say that he could leave it to whoever he chose through his Will, but the law in the country in which the holiday home was situated might say otherwise. In particular, some countries have “forced heirship rules” which can give certain relatives a claim to assets regardless of the contents of the Will of the person that has died.
The difficulty over the years has been that working out which country’s laws would take precedence has often been almost as complicated as the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. EU Directive 650/2012 therefore came into effect in August 2015 and says in basic terms, that if a person with assets in more than one EU country makes a statement in their Will specifying which country’s laws they wish to take effect in relation to succession to their assets, subject to the person having a close association with that country other EU states that have opted into the Directive will recognise this choice and allow the assets to pass under the chosen jurisdiction.
What is particularly interesting is that the UK, in fact, opted out of the EU Directive but it may nevertheless be of great significance to clients in the UK. What should be important is whether the Directive has been adopted by the state whose law the client wishes to override.
Taking again the example of an English client with a holiday home in another EU state, if the client included a statement in their Will saying that they wished the law of England and Wales to apply to the succession to their assets, that statement should be accepted by the other EU state if that state has opted into the regulation, even though the UK has not.
What this means in practice is that if you own assets in other countries this is a very good time to review your Will. You may previously have been advised to make a separate Will in the foreign jurisdiction and it is possible that your arrangements could now be simplified, but you will need specific advice on the precise workings of the law, whether the Directive applies to the country you have assets in and, if so, what precisely you need to do to take advantage.
There are steps you may want to take and (to quote Bucks Fizz from the European Song Contest 1981) our advice will help you with making your mind up.
Further advice please contact Mark Jones on 01423 502211 or