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EU decision awaited soon on French forced heirship inheritance law

The Commission has received multiple complaints from foreign residents in France left confused by a change in the rules

The Commission has a year to close a complaint or start an infringement procedure Pic: symbiot / Shutterstock

Non-French people who have complained about a restrictive inheritance law from 2021 are still awaiting a decision.

Last December, a reader from the south-west reported to us that she had lodged a complaint at the website of the European Commission.

She was unhappy over France’s law that seeks to impose forced heirship rules in children’s favour. 

European Commission has received multiple complaints

This is the case even where a person has used EU law to choose in their will the inheritance law rules of their country of origin to apply to their whole estate.

The latter option has often been used, for example by British or American citizens living in France, who want to apply the more flexible inheritance rules of their country of origin.

Later, the Commission acknowledged that it had now received multiple complaints.

We expect its decision on the matter to be published at the same link or here.

The original complainant recently shared with us her “frustration” at her prolonged wait, saying emails to the Commission have gone without response. 

Read more: Complaints grow over France’s inheritance law on forced heirship

Make a complaint if you are affected

A Commission spokesman told us, however, that there is a one-year maximum limit for it to either close a complaint or start an infringement procedure against the country concerned, if grounds were found. 

We, therefore, expect a decision by the end of the year.

In the meantime, if your inheritance planning is affected by the French law, it is still possible to make your own complaint for it to be taken into consideration. 

The European Commission complaint form and instructions can be found here.

Recap: How the French law affects foreign people in France

French inheritance law is very protective of the rights of people's own children (by bloodline or adoption), for example giving two-thirds of the estate to the children where there are two children with one third left for the testator (person making a will) to leave freely as they wish.

This traditionally affected the estates of foreign (as well as French) people living in France, and foreign property (mostly real estate) of non-residents.

However, an EU regulation on inheritance in force since 2015 has given people owning property in France the right to opt in their will for the law of the country of their nationality (or one of their nationalities if more than one) to apply to their whole worldwide estate.

This was respected in France, however it was then called into question by a 2021 French law, which states that where a person bypasses the forced heirship rules using foreign inheritance law, then the notaire dealing with the inheritance should tell their children about the portions that French law would have given them, and invite them to claim compensation out of any French-based assets. 

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