Managing cross-border inheritance procedures
The REGULATION (EU) No 650/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 4 July 2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession (“EU Succession Regulation”) is applicable in respect of the inheritance matters of such individuals who passed away on or after 17 August 2015.
The aim of the EU Succession Regulation is to facilitate the handling of the legal aspects of cross-border inheritance matters within the territory of the European Union without requiring any changes in the Member States’ substantive inheritance law. As a result, the EU Succession Regulation sets out the general rules and principles to establish the procedural competence of a particular Member State on the succession as a whole and, at the same time, ensures the applicability of the substantive legal provisions of such Member State in order to avoid any collision between the legal systems of two or more EU countries (i.e. “one law – one procedure”). The EU Succession Regulation does not differentiate between movable and immovable assets.
Instead of (i) requesting the issue of a national document (the content of which may differ in the various Member States) by the heirs to prove their status; and (ii) initiating several procedures in the Member States where the deceased individual had estates, the heirs now can request the competent authorities to issue a European Certificate of Succession, the characteristics of which are detailed below.
The European Certificate of Succession
As a general matter, the competent authorities issue a European Certificate of Succession upon the justified request of the beneficiary of the deceased individual’s estate in order to prove his/her legal status and to enable such beneficiary to exercise its rights and fulfil its obligations.
The European Certificate of Succession may be used, in particular, to demonstrate one or more of the following:
the status and/or the rights of each heir or, as the case may be, each legatee mentioned in the European Certificate of Succession and their respective shares of the estate;
the attribution of a specific asset or specific assets forming part of the estate to the heir(s) or, as the case may be, the legatee(s) mentioned in the European Certificate of Succession; and
the powers of the individual mentioned in the European Certificate of Succession to execute the will or administer the estate.
In Hungary, the European Certificate of Succession is issued by a notary public pursuant to the Hungarian Probate Act. The European Certificate of Succession shall be recognised in every Member State without any specific or additional procedure. It is also important to point out that the Hungarian legislation is in full compliance with the EU Succession Regulation.
The main advantage of the European Certificate of Succession is that its legal effect are the same throughout the territory of the European Union and it must be acknowledged – with certain exceptions – by every Member State. A national document, however, has different legal effect depending on the practice of the Member State in which it has been issued; and this may delay the recognition of the heirs’ rights in another Members State. The European Certificate of Succession is highly recommended in cases when the deceased individual’s estate is located in different Member States since only one probate procedure needs to be conducted.
The European Certificate of Succession is a beneficial tool, however, certain Member States did not participate in the adoption of the EU Succession Regulation (i.e. Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom). As a result, the above Member States kept their own national procedure in cross-border inheritance matters, and are not required to accept the European Certificate of Succession.