If you own assets abroad, the laws of that country may dictate who inherits the asset(s) on your death. It is important to familiarise yourself with the position and consider whether or not you should deal with any foreign assets in your English will, or prepare a separate will.
In England and Wales the principle of testamentary capacity means that people can more or less leave their estate to whomever they choose. This is not the case in all countries, and forced heirship rules may apply to assets owned in countries such as France or countries governed by Sharia law. There is also a risk that property will be subject to inheritance tax in both countries.
The EU Succession Regulation (also known as Brussels IV) was introduced to unify succession laws across EU member states and applies to deaths after 17th August 2015.
Although the UK has opted out of the provision, an election can now be made in your Will as to whether or not UK law will apply to your whole estate. The default provision is that the rules of the country in which you are habitually resident will apply but making an election will override this.
Habitual residence means somewhere that you live regularly. For individuals that split their time between several countries, this can be more difficult to interpret. Habitual residence is also different to the more complex concept of domicile, which can be difficult to define. It may be that you are considered to be habitually resident in one country, but domiciled in another. Similarly, you and your spouse or civil partner may have different residence and/or domicile, and this can impact on the spousal exemptions from inheritance tax that are available to you.
Habitual residence and domicile are global concepts that apply to any country, not just EU member states.
If you need advice on how these concepts apply to your situation, then our experienced team will be happy to assist.