New EU regulation on death and succession in force from August

Estonia: Regulation (EU) 650 / 2012: habitual residence, choice of law and European Certificate of Succession.

A new EU regulation on the law of succession is in force since 17/08/2015: as of this date, it regulates all new cases of succession. As part of European secondary legislation, the regulation is applicable in and binding on all EU member states (except the UK, Ireland and Denmark).

Above all the regulation affects cross-border bequests. This is true both in cases where there is a last will or testamentary contract and a legal order of succession. From now on precise jurisdiction rules will apply. In addition, mechanisms are introduced for choice of law as well as a new (optional) European Certificate of Succession, which now competes against national certificates concerning heirs.

With immediate effect, the regulation ensures on a Europe-wide basis that cases of succession are treated solely according to the law of one specific country. Whereas legal succession was previously determined following citizenship, the law of succession now uses the last habitual place of residence of the deceased as the deciding factor. E.g. if German pensioners want to spend their retirement in Estonia and settle there, after their death their succession operates according to the Estonian law of succession, even if they have funds or property in Germany.

The regulation allows choice of law. But the deceased is limited in choice as to the law of the state of which he has citizenship. This rule aims to stop circumventing rights to a compulsory portion. You can execute the choice of law only via an explicit formal declaration in your last will. When looking at the example of the German pensioners: if they want to ensure they are succeeded according to German law, they will have to state this wish clearly, because otherwise Estonian law is applicable.

With regard to the new European Certificate of Succession, groups of people such as heirs or administrators of a will can obtain confirmation of their status on a European level. This procedure is introduced in addition to (not as a replacement for) existing national certificates of inheritance. Protection of good faith is also partially covered.

Finally, the new regulation brings several changes with respect to many EU member states, because the primary factor for deciding a conflict of law is now habitual residence. This aspect as well as the new certificate will lead to synchronization among the laws of succession all over Europe.



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