Cornwall Living 2018

Protect your asset

Malcolm Emery, partner and tax expert at Stephens Scown LLP walks us through recent changes effecting overseas property owners.

Owning a property overseas can be an incredibly rewarding experience, however many owners fail to consider what’ll happen to it when they die. New rules now apply to property owned within the EU, known as Brussels IV, which may change what happens to your estate when you die.

Malcolm Emery tells us about the new rules, explaining that, if you have a connection with more than one country – for instance, if you live in one and own property in another – the new rules will affect you if one of those countries is an EU member.

“Each country has its own rules to decide which law applies, known as conflict of laws rules. The interaction of these rules is often complicated and unclear, making it uncertain who will inherit your estate. Brussels IV aims to reduce this uncertainty.”

So, what country’s law applies to your estate under these new rules? According to Malcolm, it is the country in which you are a resident that governs what happens to your property when you die. This default position can be overridden if you choose to apply the law of your nationality instead, which can be done either via Will or Codicil.

On the advantages of making a choice of law in one’s Will, Malcolm explains that for many, “choosing to apply the law of their nationality will ensure that their estate is governed by the law with which they are most familiar.”

For anyone who does own property overseas, Brexit certainly poses some questions, however Malcolm assures us that “at the moment, it doesn’t make a difference. This is simply because the UK never opted into Brussels IV and as such they are not bound by the rules.”

So, what should you do now? If Brussels IV affects you, Malcolm recommends reviewing your Will or, indeed, writing one if you don’t already have one. This will ensure that your estate passes to your chosen beneficiaries. He stresses that your existing Will may be treated as a choice of law, even if it doesn’t explicitly say so. In turn, this could mean that your Will does not have the outcome that you expect.


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