Owners of properties and other assets abroad will be relieved to hear that the UK has opted out of the European Union (EU) proposals to simplify the administration of estates with a ‘cross-border’ dimension. The EU estimates that there are some 450,000 of these, but with more than 400,000 people in the UK alone said to have foreign property interests, and one in seven marriages in the UK being contracted with someone born abroad, this must surely be an underestimate.
The proposals stipulate that in cross-border cases, the inheritance laws of the state in which the deceased last habitually resided will apply in determining the division of the estate assets, unless the will of the deceased contains an election that the inheritance law of their native country should apply. The UK thinks this is inappropriate as inheritance law in several EU countries is very different from that in the UK and, in particular, many countries require that estates are divided in a certain way. This gives much less flexibility than is available under UK law.