Most European Countries have forced heirship laws which mean that upon death, the Deceased’s estate passes to, and is divided amongst certain named beneficiaries according to law. This in turn means that usually a simple document sworn before a Notary is all that is required in order to have the Deceased’s assets transferred to those entitled to the same.

Usually when dealing with assets (usually shares in publicly quoted companies) owned by the European Deceased in Canada or in the USA difficulties can arise in explaining the situation to the Canadian or USA share registrars, particularly if the Notarial Act is several months old (as is usually the case). This may involve having another updated Notarial Act notarised and an Apostille affixed.

What is particularly important is that there is an English translation of the Notarial Act, which must also include copies of any Will (which is unlikely) and of the Death Certificate; as well as certified copies of the heir’s passports and utility bills / bank statements/ credit card statements dated within the last three (3) calendar months showing the home address of the each heir.

As a consequence of the above, it is usually a simple process to have the European shares transferred or bank accounts closed, but complex because of the need for English translations (by a certified translator and not your aunt’s or uncle’s best friend – although translations by them are frequently very helpful).

This in turn means that the actual share transfer forms are fairly easy to have signed and notarised and returned to the local European share registrar, the problem being that several countries do not permit the shares to be transferred, which instead have to be sold and the monies remitted to the heirs.

If the deceased died domiciled in the U.K. owning assets in Europe, then please see our articles about each Country concerned.

It is therefore very important to make sure that if the deceased died domiciled in a European Country that has forced heirship laws, that the forced heirship laws of that Country are carefully understood, and that the deceased (if possible) makes a Will which deals with assets in the UK (which is not a forced heirship country) as well as assets in Canada, USA, Australia and elsewhere in the World.

Certainly this is most important where real property is involved, as such property is usually governed by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the property is situated; and company shares registrars in those countries will in many cases also have their own procedures which may not recognise forced heirship laws of another country.