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New EU rules simplify cross-border succession cases

13-03-2012 13:45:00

The Member States of the European Union have taken an important step towards improving the legal position of beneficiaries in succession cases. Thus, the European Parliament has today granted its support to a proposal for new rules that will allow succession cases connected to several Member States to be settled by one authority and under one set of rules. The Danish EU Presidency has dedicated a focused effort to achieving agreement on the issue, and the vote of the European Parliament is the culmination of a process of intense negotiation between the Council and the European Parliament. However, due to its opt-out in matters concerning justice affairs, Denmark will not itself gain any benefit from the new rules.

In the European Union there are about 450,000 cross-border succession cases every year, for example cases in which the deceased owned property or held bank accounts in different Member States.

Today, the European Parliament agreed to a draft Regulation on cross-border successions. The expectation is now that the Regulation can be adopted finally by the Council at a later point during the Danish Presidency.

The intention is to ensure significant simplification of the procedures in cross-border succession cases in the European Union.

Therefore, the proposal includes rules which prescribe that the entire succession case must be dealt with by one authority under the law of one country. In addition, a European Certificate of Succession will be introduced, to make it easier for beneficiaries, for example, to document their rights in another Member State, such as a Member State in which parts of the property of an estate are located.

The proposal will, however, fall under Denmark’s opt-out in matters concerning justice and home affairs, so the Regulation will not apply in Denmark.

The President of the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) Minister of Justice Morten Bødskov announces:

"The death of a close relative is a cause of severe strain emotionally. In such a situation it is not reasonable to demand that the bereaved must be able to deal with difficult legal issues involving the legal systems of several countries. 

It has therefore long been the wish of the Member States of the Council to introduce new and simpler rules to regulate cross-border succession cases. I am highly satisfied with the European Parliament’s decision today to support this aspiration.

There is no reason to conceal that the negotiations on the proposed Regulation have not been simple. Succession is a highly sensitive area, which is handled differently in the individual Member States.

The Danish Presidency has worked hard to achieve agreement in this case, but it is obvious that the results have only been possible because the Member States and the Parliament have shown the required willingness to compromise. I would like to express my recognition of their approach.

The new rules will ensure simplification of the procedures in cross-border succession cases. Thus, the Regulation will include rules prescribing that the entire case must be dealt with by one authority according to the law of one country, which will make things significantly easier for the bereaved.

Unfortunately, the Regulation falls under the Danish justice opt-out and Danish citizens will therefore not gain any benefit from the improvements that the Regulation will bring.

This process is a distinct reflection of the excellent collaboration between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council. I look greatly forward to continuing this good working relationship in connection with the other important cases that are due to be negotiated under the Danish Presidency."

Further information

See the European Parliament’s position on the first reading.

Read a survey of the process to prepare the proposal and relevant documents, including the Commission’s original proposal (COM(2009) 154 final)

Contact

Please address press contact to: Peter Goll, Ministry of Justice
Tel: +45 22 14 66 44, email: pgo@jm.dk 

Background

In October 2009, the Commission put forward a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession (the Succession Regulation). The aim of the proposed Regulation is to simplify the procedures in succession cases that include a cross-border element.

Today, the European Parliament adopted its so-called position at first reading relating to the proposal.

Under the Danish Presidency, a substantial amount of work has been focused on reaching a common understanding on the proposal, mutually between the Member States in the Council as well as between the Council and the Parliament. Through intensive contact between the Council and the Parliament it has successfully been agreed how the new Regulation should be shaped. The text for the Regulation which the European Parliament accepted today is expected to be formally adopted by the Council at a later point during the Danish Presidency.

Figures compiled by the Commission show that there are about 450,000 cross-border succession cases every year. They may be cases in which the deceased owned property or held bank accounts in different Member States, and cases in which beneficiaries are confronted with differing national rules on what courts and authorities have jurisdiction to deal with the case and the legislation that will apply to the deceased’s estate or parts of it. The proposal for a new Regulation seeks to simplify the procedures in such succession cases by introducing a system under which the entire succession case will be dealt with by one authority under the law of one country.
 
According to the proposal, the criterion of "the deceased’s habitual residence" will determine which authorities will have jurisdiction. The same criterion will also determine which law will be applied to the succession case, unless the deceased has indicated another decision. In addition, the proposal includes rules on the recognition and enforcement of decisions concerning succession made in other Member States than the one in which the decision was made.

In addition, a European Certificate of Succession will be introduced, making it easy for heirs, legatees, executors and administrators of the estate to document their status and/or rights and powers in another Member State, for instance in a Member State in which parts of the inheritance property is located.

It is moreover expected that the Regulation will reduce costs such as the costs incurred by heirs and legatees in connection with cross-border succession cases.

The proposal will fall under the Danish opt-out in matters concerning justice and home affairs and will thus not be applicable in Denmark.