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International Succession Simplified
Four years after a Green Paper made recommendations for the simplification of succession law in Europe the European Commission have released draft rules governing jurisdiction and applicable laws. The proposals, which have been welcomed by practitioners and STEP, will simplify the 450,000 estates annually that involve cross border European estates. The report identifies a number of the problems currently associated with these matters which total over 120 billion Euros.
The problems include; uncertainty when estate planning, delay and confusion for beneficiaries, high costs in both planning and post death administration, different inheritance rules in different countries, using different criterion for determining which member state has jurisdiction, documents (such as a Grant of Probate) not being recognised in other Member states and differing procedures for claiming inheritances. The proposals would give the deceased's country of habitual residence the jurisdiction to deal with the estate and that the inheritance laws in that jurisdiction would apply. It also gives the testator the right to specify in their Will if the law of their nationality should apply instead.
The report also proposes the introduction of a European Certificate of Succession which would give executors powers in administration which are recognised throughout all Member States. The new rules would not affect each State's own laws concerning gifts and inheritance. They will be able to continue imposing rules that provide certain relatives must inherit a fixed part of an estate. Taxes will also be unaffected by the changes and will be left for individual Members States to determine.
The European Commission hopes that the proposals will reduce the confusion and complexity of the current international succession laws. Complications have been evident in cases such as Haji-loannou v Frangos where the deceased was born in Cyprus and had British nationality but acquired domicile in Monaco and died in Greece. Each jurisdiction had its own laws relating to timing and procedure. The case would have been significantly simpler with a Certificate of Succession