French Property and Wills

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    If you have a client who has bought a property in France or is thinking of moving to France permanently then they must be aware of the French Law of Succession.

    Any holiday home owned in France will be subject to this law and, if your client relocates to France the law can apply to all their worldwide assets.

    In England you can normally leave your assets to who you choose, within reason, but in France your Will can be overturned by the protected heirs to your estate.

    In France the children are the main inheritors of an estate leaving the surviving spouse very little protection. ‘Children’ includes not only those from the current marriage but also illegitimate children, adopted children and those from a previous marriage.

    In France a deceased’s estate is made up of a reserved portion (reserve legale) and a disposable portion (quotite disponible).

    The protected heirs (or heritiers reservataires) are guaranteed to receive their ‘reserved’ share, whether or not a Will exists. The Will can only be used to distribute the ‘disposable’ part of the estate.

    Where there is a Will If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or parents of the deceased the spouse may take the entire estate. Previously, if one or both of the parents are still alive each one will take 25% of the estate leaving the spouse with a reduced share. Under new law introduced in January 2007 the spouse can take the entire estate in preference to the parents.

    Where there are surviving children the estate is distributed as follows:

    Where there are more children the reserved 75% is divided equally between them. Where children were conceived in an adulterous relationship their share is reduced by one half.

    Where a child has predeceased, their share will pass to grandchildren or be shared among remaining siblings. The disposable portion passes in accordance with the Will.

    Where there is no Will Where there are no children or grandchildren the parents receive shares as above. If there are surviving descendants and they include any that are not from the current marriage then the surviving spouse has the right to take 25% of the estate. If the decedents are only from the current marriage the spouse can either take 25% of the estate or a life interest in 100% of the estate.

    A usufruct (life interest) allows the spouse to receive the income from the whole estate, the capital passing to the children on second death.

    The Family Home Under French succession law, where a spouse lived in the home at the time of death they retain the right to live in it, free of charge, for one year, whether or not they owned a share.

    Where the home was owned solely by both parties the survivor has a right to live in the property and use the contents for the rest of their life. They must claim this right within one year of first death.

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    Matt Walkden Will Writer

    About Matt Walkden

    I am a Professional Will Writer and I offer a small number of other products that complement my Will Writing such as Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPA’s), Fixed Price Estate Administration, often called Probate and some Property Products such as changing a family home from Joint owners to Tenants in Common.

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