YOU published an article in October on English wills taking precedence over French inheritance law [with its strict rules on who should inherit]. We want to buy a French property and become resident but we have children from previous marriages and cannot work out the best way to protect the surviving spouse and also make sure our children can eventually inherit. I heard the Hague Convention says you can decide on which country’s law will govern your estate - would this help? G.M.M.
A law allowing you to choose the law of your country of nationality to apply to your whole estate was adopted by the European Parliament last year but this is only the first step to it possibly becoming official EU law. It could be years before it becomes French domestic law.
The Hague Convention of 1961 says a will drawn up in France according to English law is valid in both France and the UK. However the effect is limited, says François Trémosa, a notaire with the Groupe Monassier in Toulouse. Any real estate assets located in France remain subject to French law.
One option might be to make a donation entre époux (a special kind of will) which would leave the usufruct to the survivor – this means they would have use of it but not the whole legal ownership. If the property was sold, the deceased partner’s heirs would then get their share of the sale money. This can be arranged via a notaire.