Kleinschmidt on the European Certificate of Succession


Jens Kleinschmidt (Max Planck Institute for Comparative and PIL, Hamburg) has Optionales Erbrecht: Das Europäische Nachlasszeugnis als Herausforderung an das Kollisionsrecht (The European Certificate of Succession: An Optional Instrument as a Challenge for Private International Law) posted on SSRN.

The legal systems of the EU Member States have developed varying instruments that enable an heir or legatee to prove his position and protect third parties dealing with the holder of such an instrument (“certificates of succession”). However, these instruments are often of little use when presented abroad. In cases where the estate is located in more than one country, heirs or legatees are therefore required to apply for several national certificates. This will cost them time and money. The EU Succession Regulation (Reg. 650/2012) tackles this unsatisfying situation in two ways. On the one hand, Art. 59 on the “acceptance” of authentic instruments may promote the circulation of national certificates of succession. Under this approach, however, national certificates retain the effects attributed to them by their country of origin. On the other hand, therefore, Arts. 62 ff. create a supranational European Certificate of Succession (ECS) which may be applied for if heirs or legatees of a legatum per vindicationem need to invoke their status or exercise their rights in another Member State. The ECS does not replace the national systems but rather constitutes an optional instrument that may be applied for in lieu of a national certificate. In order to fulfil its purpose, the content of the ECS must be based on uniform private international law rules. Here, despite the harmonization efforts of the Regulation, three areas present particular challenges: (i) the relationship with conflicts rules for matrimonial property, (ii) dealing with legal institutes unknown to the legal system of the Member State where the ECS is presented, and (iii) determining the law applicable to incidental questions. Uniform interpretation and uniform characterization can only be safeguarded by the ECJ, to which, however, not all national authorities competent for issuing an ECS may refer their questions for a preliminary ruling. The ECS is based on a set of uniform rules on competence and procedure that respect the autonomy of the Member States and at the same time ensure that the ECS may perform its tasks. The question remains whether the ECS will be regarded as an attractive option compared to the existing national certificates. The far-reaching, uniform effects of the ECS and the advantages brought about by standardization regarding language and content speak in favour of the ECS. However, in certain areas a national certificate may afford a more comprehensive protection. Moreover, the implementation of the ECS into practice will have to allay the fear that its issuance may be excessively cumbersome.

This pre-print version is published in this Research Paper Series with the permission of the rights owner, Mohr Siebeck. The publisher’s version of the article will be available for download as of October 2014. Full-text Rabel Journal articles are available via pay-per-view or subscription at IngentaConnect, a provider of digital journals on the Internet.

Note: Downloadable document is in German.

The paper is forthcoming in the Rabel Journal of Comparative and International Private Law (RabelsZ).