Reader question: I was recently granted French nationality as I applied partly with a view to protecting my rights after Brexit, meaning I am now a dual British-French national. I live in France. Can I still opt for British law via the EU inheritance regulation or will France insist that French law must apply to my estate now?
Your question relates to the EU inheritance regulation in force since 2015, which allows foreign residents of France to elect the law of their nationality to apply to their whole estate after they die, as opposed to French laws including reserved portions for children.
Prior to the EU regulation coming into force in 2015 there were concerns about this as in most situations where nationality is concerned France sees a person with dual French and another nationality as simply being French.
However this concern proved to be unfounded.
In fact this situation is specifically provided for by article 22 of the regulation, which states: “A person possessing multiple nationalities may choose the law of any of the states whose nationality he / she possesses at the time of making the choice or at the time of death”.
This rule has been respected in France and so in the vast majority of cases there should be no problem with this.
Lawyers have stated that it could only be subject to a (theoretical) legal challenge (eg. by one of your children who did not receive the share provided for in French law) in exceptional circumstances and we are not aware of any cases where this has occurred.
Note, though, that since 2021 there is another point in that a (still relatively new) French law now seeks to offer children compensation if they believe they have lost out due to a parent opting for a legal system that does not include any forced heirship rules, such as UK or American inheritance laws.
In theory, notaires should offer them the chance to apply for financial compensation out of the value of the part of the estate located in France, though the children do not have to take this up.
Several complaints have now been made to the European Commission to the effect that this is contradictory to the aims of the EU regulation.
How to get round the French inheritance law on reserved heirs
How do I leave money to charity in France?