(CN) – EU legislators adopted a proposal that will make it easier for citizens to collect inheritances after the deaths of loved ones who lived in a different EU country.
“Around 12.3 million Europeans live in another EU country and there are around 450,000 international successions each year,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement, noting that the value of international estates is about $150 billion yearly. “Currently different rules on jurisdiction and applicable law in the 27 EU Member States are creating legal headaches for already grieving families. Today’s endorsement by the council of new EU rules will bring legal certainty to the thousands of families confronted with international successions.”
The new probate rules hinge upon a single criterion for determining both jurisdiction and the applicable law to cross-border succession: the deceased’s country of residence. Living citizens will also be able to plan their estates in advance with full legal certainty, according to the commission.
People living abroad can opt to have the law of their country of nationality apply to the entirety of the probate proceedings, Reding’s office added.
The rule also paves the way for the European Certificate of Succession, a document that will allow people to prove they are heirs or estate administrators with no further legal formalities throughout the EU. The commission said the certificate improves upon present rules that require grieving families to pass over difficult and complex probate hurdles. The result is cheaper and faster proceedings, it added.
The matter went for a vote Thursday before the EU Council after the European Parliament gave its approval in March
“The death of a family member is a sad and traumatic event, without additional legal headaches,” Reding said in a statement after the Parliament vote.
She called the decision “a major step towards providing legal certainty for thousands of families confronted with international successions.”
EU member nations have three years to align their national laws for the new rules on estate succession to take effect.