Death in the Brexit fog…

4 December, 2017
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

….. and what a fog!  For every question asked about Brexit there is no certain answer.  Will there be a trade deal?  Will London keep its financial dominance?  Will there be Customs Points between Northern Ireland and Eire?  Endless questions and no certainty anywhere.


Actually, not quite true.  There is certainty in one area. Where?  Brussels IV, of course.  This is the snappy term for new cross border succession rules on death brought in by the EU in August 2015.  Of course, the new rules have many complex parts but for Brits they are a great help. 


Until recently if, as a UK National, you owned a cottage in Brittany, then you could not always be sure that it would be inherited on your death by those you chose in your will.  So, if you had children from a previous marriage and left your French property to your new partner, Monique, under French law your children could override your wishes and claim a share in the property; which could prove quite tough on Monique. 


No more.  Under the new rules your can now apply UK succession law in your will or by separate declaration; and our law (other than one or two Scottish exceptions) has no forced heirship.  You can leave whatever you like to whoever you like.


Make sure you review your will if you have assets in any EU country other than Denmark or Eire, who have opted out of the new rules along, of course, with the UK.  Make sure your will applies UK law and, subject to specialist advice if necessary, consider making a separate will in the relevant EU country itself.


Obviously then the UK’s opting out of the new rules does not affect a UK National’s right to apply UK succession law in an EU country.  Americans, Australians, Canadians and any non-EU person can do the same. 


However, things can get a bit tricky the other way round.  Frenchman Pierre owns a London flat.  If he tries to apply French law in his will to the flat the outcome could get complex, because of the UK’s non-participation in the new rules; no space here to go into that!


What happens after Brexit?  No change at all.  The European Commission have even put out a recent citizen’s guide which effectively says so.  Link to guide dated 29 September 2017.


Nothing is more certain in life than death and taxes, Benjamin Franklin once said in so many words.  We have no idea how Brexit will affect our taxes.  Another uncertain answer in the Brexit fog.  But at least we are clear about death.  No change.