Can my grandchildren inherit share from my husband?

We have lived in France for almost 13 years and have a French usufruit will signed 5/6 years ago but are not sure of our situation.My husband wants my grandchildren to inherit his share: can he do this? He has no children.If he dies before me, do all proceeds go to me and then to my relatives in future or would his will dictate what happens?I will leave my share to my two sons, but what share would be given to the grandchildren if I were to die first and what inheritance tax would they pay? M.A.

21 June 2017

It sounds as though you have French Wills drafted by a notaire under which you each leave a life interest (usufruit) to the survivor.

Given they are more than five years old and as they create a tax liability for your grandchildren which you had perhaps not fully understood, we recommend you make new wills.

We understand that under your will the legal ownership (nue propriété) goes to your children (their right in French law) with usufruit for your husband, and in his he leaves his share to your grandchildren (who are not his blood relations), subject to your life interest...

As he has no children he can leave his share to any­one he wishes, (assuming no tontine clause in the purchase deed and you have no French marriage contract).

If he dies first, the usufruit to you as survivor is exempt from inheritance tax; but an age-linked value is attributed. If, for example, you are 71-80 this is 30% and the grandchildren’s share is 70%.

As they are not his blood relatives they face 60% IHT on assets over €1,594. 

You are French-resident so your worldwide estate will be assessed for French IHT. On your subsequent death, your estate passes to your children; your grandchildren already have the other part.

If you die first, your hus­band has a life interest, your sons inherit the nue propriété (with usufruit valued as before). Your sons each benefit from €100,000 tax-free and then sliding-scale IHT from 5% to 45%.

When your husband dies, your grandchildren inherit his share. Your children have already inherited your share.

Question answered by Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query

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