Cross-border Wills, Probate, Trusts And Tax, Vital Considerations For British Citizens Living In Italy, Spain Or Portugal

Published date09 February 2022
Subject MatterTax, Family and Matrimonial, Inheritance Tax, Wills/ Intestacy/ Estate Planning
Law FirmGiambrone & Partners
AuthorMr Helen Teffere

The kinder climate, cuisine and culture of Europe has always had a lure for British citizens with many thousands living in Italy, Spain and Portugal, many of whom are enjoying the cultural heritage and scenic environments in their retirement years.

It is not uncommon for individuals to hold property in more than one European country, often without recognising that the laws of succession vary quite considerably from country to country.

Helen Teffere, Head of the Trust, Inheritance and Succession Disputes Team at Giambrone & Partners points out "when a foreign citizen relocates permanently to overseas, one extremely important, often overlooked question is, how the assets in an individual's estate are to be dealt with where there are fixed assets involving different jurisdictions" Helen further remarked, "few people want their heirs to face a prolonged and costly procedure when dealing with an estate, particularly as the task will almost certainly be unfamiliar and they may struggle with the complexities of the procedure."

There are a number of associated matters to be considered in regard to overseas assets, some of which are frequently overlooked by individuals that hold such assets. The question of inheritance and ensuring that your assets reach your designated beneficiaries is a topic that many people push aside.


Italy, Spain and Portugal are now governed by Regulation (EU) 650/2012, known as the Succession Regulation (or Brussels IV) drafted in 2015 to unify and regularise the application of succession laws across Europe. The laws of succession dictate to whom and the specific proportion of the estate that each beneficiary receives. The designated beneficiaries are always relatives, with no or very little provision for the testator to advantage others such as married partners, friends or step-children in a will drafted under the laws of the country of residence.

In the event of a British citizen living in Europe with a spouse from a second marriage with no assets in the UK who dies intestate, the children of the first marriage would supersede the second spouse under the laws of succession, potentially leaving the second spouse impoverished.

Most people try to make every effort to ensure that when they die their estate passes to their beneficiaries with the least possible disruption or problems. In order to ensure that your estate passes to the beneficiaries of your choice, the best option is to draft two wills, one under England & Wales law and...

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