Mag. Balazs Esztegar LL.M.
Attorney-at-law Vienna

Piaristengasse 41/10
1080 Vienna, Austria
Tel. +43 1 997 4102
Fax +43 1 997 4102-99

EU Inheritance Law Regulation - From 17.08.2015 Innovations in European Inheritance Law

Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 (Inheritance Regulation, EuErbVO, EU Inheritance Regulation) creates a new European legal framework for probate proceedings in the European Union and brings significant changes to the applicable substantive law of succession in cross-border situations.

Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the European Union and has long since become an everyday phenomenon. Until now, international inheritance law has been poorly adapted to this circumstance. This is to change in future with the Inheritance Regulation (EU Inheritance Regulation). Succession proceedings are to become faster and more efficient and uniform and, above all, clear competences for succession proceedings are to be created. 

In addition to the jurisdiction, the connecting factor for the substantive law of succession will also change: Whereas up to now the nationality was primarily decisive for the application of the law of succession (Austrian or foreign), in the future it will primarily be the habitual residence. If, for example, a Hungarian citizen was settled in Austria and thus had his habitual residence in Austria, Hungarian inheritance law was previously applicable. In the future, Austrian inheritance law would be applicable due to the habitual residence in Austria. 

However, the EU Inheritance Regulation grants the testator a right of choice with regard to the applicable law. The testator can make a choice of law in his will and choose the law of the state of which he is a national instead of the law of his habitual residence. Thus, already at the level of intestate succession, advantages and disadvantages of one or the other legal system can be taken into account. Of course, the meaningful exercise of this right of choice presupposes that the testator is familiar with the different inheritance laws in Europe. 

The new EU Inheritance Regulation applies to deaths from 17.08.2015. However, anyone who already disposes of his or her estate in a will would do well to keep an eye on the future legal situation now.