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Can I simplify my wills for my properties in the UK and France?

Partner article: John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query how to write a will that includes your property in France and in the UK

The UK will can apply to worldwide estate but better to have separate wills for each jurisdiction Pic: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Reader question: My wife and I live in France and own a house in joint names. We also have a home in the UK. We made wills in England in 2018, opting to have our estate dealt with under UK succession law, and leaving all of it to our three children once we have both passed. Is there anything else we can do to avoid complications?

It sounds like you have taken sensible steps to ensure the surviving spouse inherits on the first death, by electing English law, and the children on the second death. 

The UK will can apply to worldwide estate, although in my experience it is generally easier to administer the UK and French estates if you have separate wills for each jurisdiction, being careful not to accidentally revoke the UK will.

You could discuss with your UK solicitor whether your UK property passes automatically to the survivor under a ‘joint tenancy’, which can make the estate easier to deal with. It is simple to arrange. Similarly, in France, check your title deed for a tontine clause allowing the survivor to inherit, although it is hugely expensive and complicated to arrange retrospectively. You could also check whether you adopted a French marriage regime of communauté universelle allowing the spouse to inherit, which makes administration of the French estate easier.

You do not have to register wills in France until death, although often  people do it so they are easy to locate. On death, if you are still French-resident, a notaire will require a translation of the will, which is not very expensive. They will then register the will relevant to France (if not already done).

A new French law of 2021 protects the rights of children disinherited by the election of non-French law. However, it seems your children are all from your marriage, and will eventually inherit anyway.

Author: John Kitching, French Law Consultancy. French Law Consultancy provides French legal advice

Related stories:

Wills, assets: UK couples and France’s three main marriage regimes

We live in France, will my wife receive more UK pension if I die?

Buying and selling a home in France: What is the viager system?

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