How French succession law could affect your family

While there are many benefits to living in France, estate planning is not one of them. The laws are complex and, many feel, unfair. Having looked at succession tax last month, I now move onto succession law. This is rather alien for British expatriates and catches many people out.

Forced heirship

Succession law in France is based on the Napoleonic Code introduced in the 1800s. It means that a specified minimum proportion of your assets (worldwide moveable assets and French real estate) must pass to your children as follows (spouses are not protected heirs if you have children):

One child – 50%
Two children – 66%
Three or more – 75%

You cannot use your will to circumvent this, but you can leave the balance of your estate to whomever you wish in your will.

Brussels IV

EU Regulation 650/2012, known as the Certificate of Succession or ‘Brussels IV’ came into effect in August 2015. Under this, the default position is that the succession law of the country where the deceased is habitually resident will apply to all assets (including real estate in other EU countries). However, any foreigners living in an EU country can elect to apply the law of their country of nationality instead. This ...

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