Should I take French nationality?

I am a 75-year-old widow and have lived in France for 40 years. I own an apartment in Paris and have various additional assets in France and two small bank accounts in the UK. I would like my two adult children to inherit my property and assets on my death. Is there any advantage to me taking French nationality when it comes to French succession law and taxes on my death?

12 November 2017
By Connexion journalist

Barbara Heslop replies: You are habitually resident in France so the French rules for succession and inheritance tax will apply on your death.

In accordance with these rules, your children would be automatically entitled to receive two thirds of your estate on your death in equal shares (so one third each).

Assuming neither of your parents is still alive and you do not re-marry, your children would in fact share your whole estate in the event of your death.

However, you could make a French will leaving the one third of your estate which would not automatically pass to your children under the reserved portion, to some other relative, friend or charity.

Your worldwide estate will be governed by French inheritance law and French inheritance tax and therefore your UK bank accounts would also be subject to the above and to French tax.

In terms of French tax, your children would each be entitled to receive the first 100,000 of their share of your estate tax-free and inheritance tax would then be payable by them on a sliding scale (between 5% and 45%) on the balance of the value of the assets that they each received.

It makes no difference from a succession or tax perspective if you were to become a dual British- French national. Becoming a French national would not entitle you to any preferential tax treatment. However your British nationality allows you to make an election of British succession law if you wish. This would not change if you took dual nationality.

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2017 Inheritance Law guide (PDF version) - For expats or second home owners - 48 pages
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The guide, to be published on September 25, 2017, includes a chapter on the formalities following a death in France, issues of dependency, and reviews changes to French inheritance law affecting expatriates and second-home owners, which came into force on August 17, 2015
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