Angry at France's inheritance rules

Notaires all agree the law is unjust but still nothing happens.

2 September 2010

REGARDING the letter about “inheritance abuse,” I have been fuming about these antiquated regulations for 20 years to no effect and now the time factor is looming. Notaires all agree the law is unjust but still nothing happens.

I agree entirely with your correspondent that ultimately one may wish our various children to be the beneficiaries, but with the proviso that this only happens after the death of both partners. Likewise I would welcome any initiative to form a pressure group.

Name and address withheld by request

THE European Commission is looking at this question and likely to rule in a year or so enabling expats to dispose of their properties without regard to French inheritance tax obligations.
Parents also have the option to get their offspring to sign a déclaration de renonciation which removes them from the list of potential inheritors.

Such a document must of course be notarised. Additionally there is also the option of a prêt viager hypothécaire [a form of equity release] whereby the owners take out a loan on the property which is not repayable until both are dead.

During the life of the pret, interest accrues and the combined loan plus interest, secured on the property, is recovered from the sale of the property. However, if the debt is greater than the value then the bank takes a hit, however any credit balance is distributed to the inheritors. Crédit Foncier are the only bank in France currently offering this facility.

Kenneth Bate, 62170 Montcavrel

THERE is an easy answer to the inheritance problem as long as you have children who have their parents’ best wishes at heart. You contact your notaire and ask him/her to arrange a contract called a Raar - renonciation anticipée à l'action en réduction. This allows your children to give up their inheritance rights and so the surviving spouse will inherit all the property.

Each child has to be represented by a notaire (it can be the same one) and you will have your own representing you. It seems complicated but it is in fact quite simple. My wife arranged for her children to give up their rights this way and I was duly protected and inherited her half of the property.

Colin Sanders, Via email

Notaire Laurent Cozic of the Groupe Monassier in Dinard (www.notaires-dinard.com) said it is true a Raar can be used to renounce claims to inheritance before people die. A potentially simpler solution, not requiring two notaires, is a change of marriage contract to “universal community” (communauté universelle) so the house becomes the survivor’s outright. However he said this is only effective if the children are the couple’s own, ie. not from one partner’s previous relationship.

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