In the European Union, many people live and work outside of their country of origin. For example, thousands of EU citizens moved to France, Germany or the UK temporarily or permanently. However, people connected with more than one state may encounter difficulties in some situations. The death of a family member living in another Member State may be such one.
For example, if a Polish citizen lives and works in France, in case of his death a French court under French law would decide on the succession, even if his estate (a house, for example) was located in Poland. Acting in a foreign court and under a foreign law makes pursuing rights difficult for the heirs.
Fortunately, there is a way to avoid such problems. Such a person just has to make a testament (preferably at a notary) and choose the law of his nationality (in the case at hand, Polish) as applicable to the succession. In such case, the French court would transfer the case to Poland if the parties apply for doing so.
It is easy to make a Polish testament. One only needs to appoint the heirs, choose the applicable law and sign the testament at a Polish notary. The price of making a testament in a notarial form is merely PLN 50 + VAT. The testament can be modified or revoked very easily at any time.
Even if the court refused to transfer the case, it should apply Polish law as chosen by the testator. That would allow to pursue the claims under the Polish law, for example a claim to an obligatory portion of the estate. The obligation to apply foreign law, which causes additional costs, may be an additional spur for the court to let the case be settled in Poland. These are the practical consequences of the EU Regulation 650/2012, which regulates issues of jurisdiction and the applicable law to succession issues in the European Union (except for Denmark, Ireland and the UK).
Under the Polish law, the spouse and the children of the deceased are entitled to an obligatory portion of the estate. Usually the portion is equal to half of the share of the estate such a person would receive if there was no testament. Such solution exists in many laws of European states – it is advised to carefully consider the choice of law prior to making the testament.
To conclude, the inheritance from the family member who died abroad may bring some difficulties. It is good to prepare the succession issues to be solved quickly and easily in your own jurisdiction without additional trouble. Making a testament at a notary facilitates achieving that goal.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.