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Leaving French property to just one child?

I have owned a French property since 1983. Can I leave it to just one child (who is involved with it and loves it as I do) instead of my two other children who are not remotely interested?

You are right to question this.

Under a recent EU Succession regulation that came into effect in August 2015, you are able to use your will to make a clear election for the law of your nationality to apply to assets situated in most countries in the EU, including France.

This will remain the case post-Brexit.

If, for example, you are English, you can elect English law in your will so that the French property passes in accordance with English law, which usually means that your will takes full effect and you could leave your French house to just one of the children.

There is, however, the usual English law warning that if any of the children are financially dependant on you, they may be able to bring a claim for reasonable financial provision if they have not been reasonably provided for under the will. It is advisable to have a will specifically dealing with your assets in France, and a separate one dealing with your assets in other jurisdictions.

The two wills need to be carefully drafted by an expert who is used to dealing with both jurisdictions, so that they do not revoke or contradict each other, and to avoid expensive taxation and administrative errors, as detailed in other articles in Connexion.

If you do not make an express election of national law, then it is likely that French law will apply to your French immovable property. Under French law, all children are entitled to a share of the estate.

If you have three children, they are entitled to a quarter each, and the remaining quarter can be freely disposed of.

Even if you do elect national law, French inheritance tax will still apply to the French immovable estate. Each child has a tax-free allowance of €100,000, if they inherit from a parent, and a sliding scale of tax applies above that.


Question answered by John Kitching of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query

Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 -

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