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Inheritance in France: will new law be challenged?

Partner article: Change applies where a non-French national has legitimately elected the law of their nationality under the EU Succession Regulation

The new French law will not affect most second-home owners Pic: gpointstudio / Shutterstock

Reader question: Are you aware of the change in inheritance law that means you can no longer leave what you like to whom you like, as many Brits have done by adopting UK law when writing their wills? Apparently, you can no longer disinherit your children, even if they are estranged. 

Unfortunately, and to the bewilderment of most lawyers and clients who work in this area, France has indeed introduced a half-baked law which now allows it to attempt to enforce French reserved inheritance rights – even where a non-French national has legitimately elected the law of their nationality under the EU Succession Regulation. 

This new French law applies where the testator lives in France (at their death) or was an EU citizen, or where a beneficiary is an EU citizen. It will not affect most second-home owners, who are generally UK residents with non-EU resident children. 

It will not affect families who are not disinheriting bloodline children. You can still leave all to your spouse and then to children. However, it might affect families wanting to disinherit bloodline children with whom they have fallen out. 

The general consensus is that the ruling will not stand up to a challenge in the European Court. The EU Commission is already investigating this as it appears to contravene EU law. 

However, I am currently advising families who might be affected to consider the inheritance planning methods that applied prior to the EU Succession Regulation, such as tontine clauses, communauté universelle marriage regimes, change of ownership structure, and other techniques that used to be widely used. 

Read more: Inheritance in France: Leaving a property to charity can bypass tax

We can then review matters when someone has had a test case and hopefully corrected this ridiculous mess.

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

The Connexion Inheritance Law and Wills in France Help Guide 

For more information about French wills and inheritance in France, take a look at our Inheritance Law and Wills in France Help Guide, a 64-page booklet of information all about French inheritance law affecting expatriates and second-home owners in France.

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