Enforcing a “foreign” Will on a French Estate under EU Regulation 650/2012

March 13, 2024
Guillaume Barlet-Batada


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In the realm of cross-border succession, the European Union has sought to streamline the legal process through the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 650/2012, commonly known as the Brussels IV Regulation.

This regulation aims to harmonize rules on jurisdiction, recognition, and enforcement of decisions in matters of succession within the EU member states. In this context, this post explores the enforcement on a French estate of a Will made in foreign jurisdictions, such as within the United Kingdom or the US.

One of the key aspects of enforcing a UK or US Will on a French estate is identifying the applicable law. Pursuant to Brussels IV Regulation, the deceased’s habitual residence at the time of death typically determines the applicable law. However, the deceased can elect, usually in a Will, the law of their nationality to apply instead.

Thus, if the deceased was habitually resident in London, England or San Antonio, Texas, or had chosen English or Texas law as the case may be, the English or Texas Will is likely to govern the succession.

Brussels IV Regulation confirms that the Courts of the State in which the deceased had their habitual residence have jurisdiction over the succession. For the enforcement of a foreign Will on a French estate, the French Courts would generally respect the jurisdiction of foreign Courts and recognize the validity of the Will.

There have been some recent attempts from a French perspective to weaken this principle and it is always advisable to determine this point on a case-by-case basis.

Once jurisdiction and the applicable law are determined, the executor or beneficiaries of the foreign Will can initiate the enforcement process in France. The Brussels IV Regulation is meant to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of Wills across Member States, even when made outside of the EU.

The competent authorities in France would acknowledge the foreign Will and its provisions, allowing for the administration of the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

We regularly advise executors or beneficiaries, whether they are private individuals or institutions such as law firms or banks to enforce a foreign Will on a French estate and assist navigating the complexities of jurisdiction, applicable law, and recognition.

With due consideration to the legal intricacies, the enforcement of a foreign Will in France is feasible under the regulatory framework. Nonetheless, it is often preferable to avoid the enforcement of a foreign Will to a French estate and create a separate “French Will”.

Guillaume Barlet Batada is a London-based French lawyer (Juriste) and Partner at gunnercooke LLP specialising in resolving issues and anticipating cross-border matters for private individuals. Guillaume has in-depth experience in French real estate, estate planning and taxation including the acquisition and sale of French property.

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