A decision by the European Commission on France’s controversial 2021 inheritance law is due in February, two months later than originally expected.
A reader from the Tarn launched a complaint process with the commission on December 5, 2022, in the hope of a decision within a year.
After she complained, several other people did the same.
Heirs who have ‘lost out’ can seek compensation
The law effectively seeks to impose French forced heirship rules on foreigners here, even when they choose to use an EU regulation to elect the law of their country of nationality to apply to their estate.
The notaire handling the estate must contact any heirs who have ‘lost out’ in the will under French inheritance law rules to ask if they wish to seek compensation from any part of the estate located in France.
They could, for example, ask for a share of a French house.
This can be especially complicated if there are children from previous relationships or if parents and children are not close.
Multiple complaints allow procedural clock to start running later
Our reader is her husband’s second wife and the couple had drawn up wills using English law to protect her and leave her more than allowed under French rules.
The European Commission is to decide whether the 2021 law breaches EU legislation and thus an infringement procedure should be opened.
Normally, it takes just over 12 months from a complaint being made. Otherwise, within this time, the complainant should be told if the case is complicated and needs more time.
However, our reader has learned that EU procedures allow the clock to start running later in the event of multiple complaints about an issue.
She should hear by February 15, a year after the complaints were grouped on an EU website.
The infringement process starts with written exchanges over several months as the EU seeks information from the country and requests compliance if the breach is confirmed.
If nothing changes, court action might be taken, which can lead to a lump sum fine or continuing fines.
However, the EU says 90% of cases are resolved before going to court.