Page last updated at 20:35 GMT, Monday, 12 March 2012

MEPs welcome new cross-border inheritance law

A new law on cross-border inheritance has been welcomed by MEPs during a debate on 12 March 2012 - although the UK's decision to opt-out has faced criticism.

The draft regulation - which has been backed by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee - would create a European Certificate of Succession designed to clarify the position of people drawing up a will, as well as their heirs and creditors.

EU-wide criteria would make clear which country's legal system applies when an inheritance concerns more than one member state, a move designed to reduce costly legal disputes and cut red tape for heirs.

If someone from one EU member states dies in an EU state that is not their home country, inheritance issues would be dealt with under the law of the member state where they last had their "place of habitual residence".

However the person drawing up a will would also have the option of having his or her will read under the law of his or her EU country of origin.

This would give EU citizens a new right, which MEPs and the Commission believe would be a major improvement, as it would allow someone living abroad to retain close links with their home country and ensure that specific national provisions are respected.

Opening the debate, the parliament's negotiator on the regulation, German centre-right MEP Kurt Lechner said that 12 million EU citizens live in a different member state.

Meanwhile Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that citizens "have been waiting too long a change in the law".

The governments of the UK and Ireland have decided to opt-out of the scheme, due to concerns over the issue of "claw-back".

This allows heirs to recoup voluntary donations made by an individual during their lifetime - a principle that applies in most EU countries but not in the UK.

Austrian MEP Eve Lichtenberger accused the UK of opting out "for the umpteenth time - but there's nothing new there".

However British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim said he supported the new regulation in principle, and hoped that further negotiations could take place over the claw-back issue.

MEPs formally approved the draft regulation during the daily voting session on 13 March 2012.

Due to technical reasons outside our control we our unable to bring the final part of this debate.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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