UK citizens who own a property in Italy or Spain or any other country would be well advised to draw up a will related to the country or countries in which their assets reside to ensure that it is crystal clear as to who is to be the benefactor with regard to any foreign property. Many European countries have extremely defined laws of succession that cannot be renounced other than in exceptional circumstances; unlike the UK where an individual of sound mind can leave his or her estate to anyone they choose to. Under Italian inheritance laws, for example, the procedure is very different from the equivalent of laws of other jurisdictions. The laws of succession can be relied on in some circumstances but it will be a long drawn out process for your benefactors to undergo and may present complications when transferring ownership, even in the most straightforward of inheritance.
Succession is regarded differently in different countries and an individual who owns assets in different countries should consider that some countries apply completely different concepts to succession which have a significant impact on the way the assets are dealt with in the absence of a well drafted will relating to the country concerned. For example, France recognises habitual residence, whereas England considers domicile, Italy applies the concept of nationality. If you have several assets in different countries you should bear in mind that a cross-border estate can be extremely complex to administer if no consideration has been given to the eventual disposal of your assets.
Your benefactors could be placed in the position of having to endure a long drawn out, not mention costly, procedures to demonstrate the provenance of their claim to the assets which almost inevitably involve dealing with documents drafted in a foreign languages, different and possibly conflicting jurisdictions, authentications before public notaries and the prospect of tax liabilities from the onset without having access to the asset. The costs of having a certified translator alone can be extremely high when there are many documents to deal with. Also, there is always the prospect that an excluded individual who perceives a right to your estate may take advantage of both the complexity and the protracted time scale to mount a challenge. The simple option of drafting a straightforward will, valid in the country in which your asset is to be found makes good sense as well as being cost effective.
Giambrone has lawyers within all its offices who are extremely experienced in dealing with multifaceted estates and can give you the peace of mind that your wishes, with regard to your estate, will be observed as you intended and be not subject to a lengthy legal wrangle that may cause the value of the assets you leave to your benefactors to be eroded by a protracted legal argument, more especially if there are assets in more than one country.
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.