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French forced inheritance rule raises questions about English law

A 2021 law re-enforcing children’s rights to a share of their parent’s estate has caused issues for nationals of countries including the UK

Worries that under current French law, a widow could receive less of their spouse’s estate than their children Pic: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock

Is it cheeky, silly or just anti-EU of France to perform near- Machiavellian twists to insist on applying its rules about children being, in some cases, greater beneficiaries to a father’s estate than their widowed mother? 

I refer to new legislation which will apply forced heirship rules on French assets, even where a foreign resident has elected the law of their country of nationality to apply. 

Read more: Families face stress over new French inheritance law and foreign wills

Read more: Lawyers expressed frustration over new law which complicates inheritance issues

An interesting feature of the new law is that it seems to apply where the country a foreign testator has elected has no provision for forced inheritance to children. 

As a retired Briton legally and happily resident in France, may I introduce the English Intestate Estates Act, which does (or did, to my last concern) contain clear provision for the sharing of the intestate’s assets among the family, right down to stated proportions. 

Therefore, would England count as a country with legal provision for forced inheritance? 

Editor’s note: Many countries have laws on who inherits in the case of intestacy, ie. when no will has been made - however this does not trigger an exemption from the French law. 

That only applies where there is an obligation for people to give a part of their estate to their children. Questions have been asked about whether Scottish law may benefit, as it has such an obligation but relating to moveable property only and only where the deceased died resident in Scotland. To our knowledge there has been no official ruling on this.

Related links

Will stepchildren be entitled to my husband’s assets in France

Inheritance taxes are a minefield to be navigated in France and UK

Will my French estate go to my civil partner when I die

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