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Will my French estate go to my civil partner when I die?

Only married couples in France automatically benefit from the inheritance rights of a spouse, but there are other ways to ensure your partner inherits your estate

You need a valid will to leave a UK civil partner a share of your French estate Pic: Varavin88 / Shutterstock

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

Related links

UK wills appointing trustees: Watch out for tax effects in France

Must I pay French inheritance tax on a UK legacy

Families face stress over new French inheritance law and foreign wills

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