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International inheritance : which law is applicable ?

What is an international Inheritance?

International Inheritance involves the inheritance of a person who dies in a country other than that of their nationality or residence, or who holds more than one nationality, or whose assets are distributed in several States other than that of their nationality or residence.

Which text is applicable to international inheritance ?

Regulation (EU) n°650/2012 of July 4, 2012 (“Rome IV”), which entered into force in France on August 17, 2015, harmonizes the conflict of laws rules that determine the law applicable to an Inheritance at the European level. This regulation made it easier to organize the inheritance of European Union (EU) nationals or those from non-EU countries (non-EU countries and the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark).

Which law is applicable to the international Inheritance?

This law will determine who the heirs are and their respective rights.

There are several possibilities:

Express designation of the national law as the law applicable to the inheritance (Article 3 Regulation n°650/2012) :

  • Through a will (or joint wills or pacts of succession) the future deceased can choose, that the inheritance obeys their national law rather than the law of their residence.
  • The advantage of this choice is the stability it provides since a change of residence will not call it into question.

The law of the last habitual residence of the deceased person, and this for all his property (article 21§1 regulation n°650/2012):

  • Residence is to be understood as the place where the deceased lived, the place where they had set the center of their interests.
  • This habitual residence is characterized by a close and stable link with the State concerned.

By way of exception, if it is not possible to determine with certainty the habitual residence of the deceased, the law of the habitual residence is set aside in favor of the law of the State with which the person has the closest connection (Article 21(2) of Regulation No 650/2012).

To summarize:

  1. Have you chosen the law applicable to your inheritance in accordance with Article 3 of Regulation n°650/2012?
  2. If the designated law is your national law, then the law applicable to your Inheritance is the law you have chosen;
  3. Otherwise, the designation of law is not valid, the law applicable to your Inheritance is the law of your habitual residence.
  4. Can you determine with certainty your habitual residence?
  5. The law applicable to your Inheritance is, in accordance with Article 21§1 of Regulation n°650/2012, the law of your last habitual residence.
  6. If it is not possible to determine with certainty your habitual residence, and in extremely rare cases, the usual linkage (law of the habitual residence) is set aside in order to apply the law of the State with which the person has the closest links (article 21§2 of regulation n°650/2012). This connection, which is exceptional, can only be made with the agreement of all the heirs or possibly the judge.

Our lawyers will assist you throughout the settlement of the inheritance. They are at your disposal to answer all your questions and advise you. Our meetings can be held in person or by videoconference. You can make an appointment directly online at

AGN AVOCATS – Inheritance Department

09 72 34 24 72

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