Different countries have different rules about inheritance. For example, Spanish succession law requires that when someone dies two-thirds of the total inheritance must go to the children. They are the ‘legal beneficiaries’. This then only leaves one third of the estate to be disposed of according to the deceased’s wishes.
In the UK and Ireland a different national inheritance law applies. You can make out a will leaving your inheritance to whoever you want. In most cases this will be your spouse but might include the children, other relatives, friends or even a charity. Until now that hasn’t posed a problem with those making a Spanish will simply including who they wish to leave their property to in the will itself. However, things are about to change.
A new European law
The European parliament has finally passed a law relating to cross-border inheritance. The EU succession Regulation (EU No. 650/ 2012) is of particular importance to those people who ‘habitually reside’ in a country different to that of their nationality. ‘Habitually reside’ is defined as having lived in the country for at least the previous two years.
According to the new law, if you are a resident living in Spain you will be subject to Spanish succession law, whatever your nationality, unless you specify otherwise. The need for the law came from confusion when an individual had property in more than one country – which law should apply? This EU succession regulation aims to bring clarity to the inheritance process by stating that the whole of a deceased’s estate will be governed by one country’s laws. At least you have the option of deciding whether it is your country of origin or the country you have moved to.
Intended to make things better it might be, but it does have important implications for those who want the laws from their own country to apply. If this is the case then you should indicate on your Spanish will that you want to invoke your own national law. If you don’t then it will be the Spanish law that will be implemented and two thirds of the inheritance will be distributed to your children.
We recommend that people living in Spain have a Spanish will. It makes the process swifter and easier for those inheriting property. However, in order to make sure your wishes can be fulfilled it is important that your will includes the necessary clause. If it doesn’t then you should make a new will that states clearly what laws you wish to be followed. However, there is a little time in which to do this as the new regulation doesn’t apply until 17th August 2015.