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Do we need children’s permission to sell our French home?

Antonia Ridley-Hughes of Ashtons Legal, answers a reader query

Ownership rules determine the rights of children for home sales Pic: mapo_japan / Shutterstock

Reader Question: Does a couple need permission from their children to sell the French house they stand to inherit a part of?

Where the couple are absolute owners, they can dispose of the property at their discretion during their lifetime. 

They do not need permission from children.

If you have already written a will that refers to a house, just rewrite it as appropriate once you have sold the house.

Permission will be needed, however, if the children are part-owners in the home. 

This includes, for example, if they own the nue-propriété in the property while the parents own the lifetime right to use it.

Also, the position is not so simple on the first death, unless everything has been carefully planned. 

The devolution of the property depends on how it is owned, the nature of the couple’s  relationship, and the applicable succession law.

Where the property is owned en tontine, the survivor will be treated as if they had always been the sole owner of the property. 

As such, they retain the right to sell.

Read more: Is French tontine arrangement affected by inheritance law changes?

Complications may arise if children have different parents

However, if the property is owned en indivision, the property will pass under French intestacy rules, in the absence of any will.

Where French succession law applies, the survivor will only have an automatic right to the deceased’s share if they are a spouse by marriage. 

A cohabitee or civil partner is not acknowledged in the same way.

Furthermore, French law includes forced heirship rules, under which a biological or adopted child is entitled to inherit a share of their deceased parent’s assets.

In either case, a co-ownership will arise and it is likely the survivor would need to obtain permission from the children to sell. 

This is even the case for a spouse, despite inheriting a portion of their deceased’s share themselves. 

The arrangement can be particularly complex where the children are not mutual to both partners.

Related articles 

Married, Pacs, cohabit: your French home rights after partner’s death

What is France’s certificate of inheritance, when do I need it?

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