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It is a public document harmonised in the European Union that can be used by heirs, legatees and executors of the will or administrators of the estate to invoke, in another Member State, to prove their conditions and rights as heirs, and the ways to participate and regulate a determinate inheritance. 

The purpose of this certificate is to be able to prove in all the member states of the European Union the status of heir of a person, their hereditary rights, the adjudication of assets of the inheritance, and the faculties of the executors, and administrators of the inheritance.

In summary, what this certificate accredits is the following:

  • The same status as heir or legatee of a person
  • The quotas or assets that correspond to the inheitors in an inheritance process
  • The faculties that a person has to be the executor of a Will or administer the estate
  • The law applicable to the succession, and the content of the succession.

It is a voluntary document, so it should not be provided in an inheritance process, unless the heirs consider it so. But it can be obligatory when  a determinate notary or public authority demands it in an inheritance process to be executed in a different country from the national of the deceased.

It is necessary to know that this Certificate is issued according to the law of the nationality of the inheritor, so, it must be produced in the country of the inheritor is national.

This certificate has legal effects mainly on three aspects.

  • It protects the heirs of the inheritance they are accrediting.
  • It can be used as legal proof of the inheritance that belongs to the heir.
  • It is required as documentation when registering the assets of an inheritance in a public registry.
  • It has a validity period of 6 months

European Certificate of Succession: where to apply

To request its processing, the first thing you must do is submit the application to a notary on your country, but it can also be issued by the Courts, depending on the legislation of the country and the type of procedure.

When is the European Succession Certificate required and obligatory?

Normally, when the inheritance or succession of a deceased person is being executed in a country other than that of his nationality, and such succession is governed by the laws of the nationality of the deceased.

Several examples:

  • An inheritance on a deceased Belgian, or Dutch, or German, etc. who made a will in Belgium, Germany, Holland. Such a will is governed by Belgian, German, Dutch, etc law. and the deceased had certain assets in Spain. The family wishes to execute the will in Spain, and they have doubts about who the heirs are, what rights they have regarding the assets in Spain, what percentage applies to the succession, etc.

In these cases, it is advisable to request the Certificate of Succession in their countries, since it will accredit all these terms.

It is also possible that it is the Spanish notary who requires the family to obtain this certificate from their country, since they may have doubts about who the heirs are, or how to make the distribution of the inheritance, etc.

  • It may also happen that the deceased Belgian, Dutch, French or German, etc. national made the Will in Spain, but by the application of the rules to determine the applicable law in the will, the law of the country of nationality of the testator is applicable, that is, Belgian, Dutch, etc. law.

As we explain in our specialized section on taxes, a Spanish will does not necessarily have to be regulated by Spanish laws. The fact that a will is made in a country does not mean that the applicable law in that will is that of that country. Under European Union law, it may well be possible for the testator to have indicated in the will made in Spain that he wanted the law applicable to the will to be that of his nationality and not Spanish law. This is perfectly acceptable among the Member States of the European Union. In the event that the testator has not indicated anything to this effect in his will, the law applicable to a will will be the law of the country in which the testator has resided permanently for the last 5 years of life.

In these cases, the Spanish notary, when executing the will, and having to interpret the laws of another country, may have doubts, and that is why he can require the family or heirs to provide a European Certificate of Succession issued in their country.

In these cases, it is best to go to the services of a notary or lawyer in their countries of origin to guide them in the process of obtaining this Certificate.