Implications of acquiring French nationality on will
Last week I received notification that my wife and I are now both dual nationals, not just British but newly French. We have been living in France for over 30 years. Some time ago we opted for our wills to be considered under the English system; can you say if acquiring French nationality means this option is no longer applicable – and should we make new wills? P.B.
Congratulations on becoming French citizens!
The general rule is that, as French residents – provided you and/or your wife die while still residing in France – the notaire will apply French law (the law of your habitual residence) to your succession as a whole.
You can also, as you have done, use the EU Succession Regulation to elect the law of your nationality to govern your succession.
As France has ratified the Regulation, this is available to all British nationals who live or own a property in France – regardless of the UK’s Brexit from the EU.
Choosing English law is an effective estate planning tool for Britons who want to avoid France’s reserved heirship rule that cannot be overridden by will.
If you have more than one nationality, you may choose the law of any of them.
As you retained British citizenship you are entitled to choose English law to govern your succession – even if you have since acquired another nationality.
The election of your chosen national law must take the form of an express declaration in your wills.
A general provision referring to ‘the law of your nationality’ or ‘the law of the state of which you will be a national at the time of your death’ could invalidate your choice of law, as your dual nationality creates uncertainty as to whether French or English law should apply.
As such, you must ensure your wills are drafted to make an express election of law and country.
You opted for your wills to be considered ‘under the English system’ but should check there is no ambiguity. If there is doubt, you should make new wills.
Question answered by Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt
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