My husband and I owned a second home in France but were both resident in the UK at the time of his death last year.
He had made a will in the UK leaving everything to me but specifically excluding the French property as we assumed French law would apply and were happy to abide by it.
However, there is a disagreement between my French notaire and my UK lawyer: the former asserts that, since my husband made a UK will he opted for UK law to apply to the whole of his estate, and that it cannot be split between two jurisdictions.
The UK solicitor says because the UK opted out of the 2012 European Regulation he was within his rights to exclude the French property: so French succession law should apply to that.
Who is right? I don’t mind either way as long as the paperwork can be sorted as painlessly as possible. A.W.
The UK solicitor is correct and the French notaire is understandably confused as all other member states ratified the EU Succession Regulation apart from the UK, Ireland and Denmark.
The confusion arises because the regulation has a principle that only one succession law should apply. However, as the UK did not ratify the regulation, then two legal systems can apply.
As your husband died resident in the UK, English law applies to his estate. He has excluded his French property from his will and therefore not elected English law to apply to it. His French property estate is therefore intestate.
English law applies French law to the French property, and as such it passes under French intestacy law.
If there are French moveable assets in the deceased’s name, such as bank accounts, then these are dealt with under English law, either under the will (depending on what the precise exclusion is) or under English intestacy law.
In any case, the notaire must administer the French property. He or she can contact the Cridon [legal research service with international specialists] who should reiterate this analysis.
Question answered by Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt
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