New rules from the European Commission, which come into force on 17 August, will allow individuals across EU member states to choose whether their foreign property assets will be governed under local rules of succession, or those in their country of nationality.

Currently, Britons with holiday homes or other assets in France, Italy, Spain and other European countries are obliged to abide by local “forced heirship” rules which dictate who must inherit their foreign investments. In the UK, individuals are free to leave their assets to whoever they wish, provided the details are contained in a valid will, but in some European countries, members of the immediate family are given precedence.

The European Succession Regulation, also known as Brussels IV, aims to succession across the EU by allowing individuals to choose the law which will govern how their property and assets are passed on after their death. The UK did not opt in to Brussels IV, but Britons with assets in EU countries which have adopted the changes – which is all of them except for the UK, Ireland and Denmark – will benefit from the new rules.

Eleanor Metcalf of law firm Wedlake Bell, said: “Brussels IV provides an excellent opportunity for those with multi-jurisdictional assets to take control of their heirs’ financial future. At the core of succession planning is preservation of wealth and the introduction of an EU succession law is a major step forward in providing certainty in will writing for all those with assets in the EU.”