EU member states look set to adopt cross-border succession regulations after the European Council of Ministers reached agreement on a final compromise package.
Richard Frimston, partner and head of the private client team, was a member of the experts' group that advised the EU Commission on the regulations. He has subsequently given evidence to the specialist committees of the House of Lords and the EU Parliament.
The proposed new legislation, Brussels IV, is designed to set up legal procedures for the resolution of cross-border succession and probate disputes. The agreed draft states that a person can choose the jurisdiction and succession law that will apply to his estate after his death. If he makes no election then the succession is determined by his place of habitual residence at the time of death. The creation of a European Certificate of Succession is also proposed, which will give personal representatives the authority to act across borders.
Currently, Britain and Ireland have not opted in, but the regulation has been drafted to allow them to do so in the future. The UK has always stated that it will opt in if it can, but this is looking increasingly unlikely given the current political climate.
Further work is required but it is expected that the Brussels IV Regulation will be finalised by summer 2012 and come into force in 2015.
It will be advisable to review and amend Wills before the Regulation comes into effect in 2015.
For full details of the current proposals see: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/st18/st18475.en11.pdf and http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/st18/st18475-ad01.en11.pdf