Will Your Spouse Inherit Your Assets If You Die In France?

07.07.11

Please note that this article is over six months old. While Blevins Franks takes care to make sure that information is accurate on the date of publication, some content may change over time. You should not rely on the accuracy of legislation and tax information in this article; take professional advice for your circumstances.

We all want to leave our spouse or partner financially secure following our death, not to mention as worry free as possible, but one particular French law can catch out Britons living here ? succe

We all want to leave our spouse or partner financially secure following our death, not to mention as worry free as possible, but one particular French law can catch out Britons living here ? succession law. Under its Napoleonic code, your children (including those from previous marriages) are ?protected heirs? and take precedence over your spouse for inheritance rights, to the extent that your spouse may only have limited rights to inherit your joint wealth when you die.

You cannot use your Will to stipulate that your children will only inherit your assets after the second death. Succession law overrides your Will and gives automatic rights to your children to inherit assets on the death of the first spouse, including jointly held assets.

The following reserved shares apply on the first death (the freely disposable part can also be passed to your spouse or anyone else):

1 child: 50% to child; 25% to spouse; 25% freely disposable

2 children: 66% to children; 25% to spouse; 9% freely disposable

3+ children: 75% to children; 25% to spouse

If you are French resident when you die the law applies to your worldwide assets (excluding overseas property and certain tax efficient investments); if you are not French resident it only applies to your French real estate.

Note that while PACS partners are treated as married couples for many purposes, they receive even fewer inheritance rights than spouses.

There are a number of ways to avoid or mitigate the impact of French succession law, such as the manner in which you own the property, matrimonial regimes and conventional investment structures, but you need to take advice from Blevins Franks for your specific personal circumstances.

The tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual must take personalised advice.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.

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