Reader Question: We are British civil partners living in France and would like to know the legal protection for the other person if one of us should die. Is it necessary to make a will? We own our house jointly and would like everything to go to the survivor. We do not have children but have family in the UK, including siblings, nephews and nieces.
As a French resident, French inheritance laws and inheritance tax treatment apply to your estate.
The entitlement to inherit on intestacy as a conjoint (spouse) only applies to married couples, not couples with a Pacs (French civil partnership).
UK civil partners only qualify for equal inheritance rights to a spouse where their civil partnership has been converted into marriage under section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
As such, under French law, a UK-registered civil partner (not converted into marriage) or Pacs partner does not automatically benefit from the inheritance rights of a spouse.
In order to protect your partner, you need to leave a valid will (or other inheritance provision, such as a tontine clause in your title deed) to leave them a share of your estate.
If there is no will, French intestacy rules apply and leave your estate to the next closest blood relation.
However, if you do leave a will in favour of your partner, then the inheritance is exempt from French inheritance tax, as it would be for a spouse.
As you do not have children, French law does not restrict you from leaving your estate under a will to your partner or to whomever you like.
Please note that siblings, nieces and nephews are heavily taxed, with minimal tax-free allowances.
As usual, expert professional advice is strongly encouraged to look more closely at your circumstances and to prepare a carefully-worded will.
Author: John Kitching, French Law Consultancy. French Law Consultancy provides French legal advice