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As a widow, do I need a French will to ensure house goes to children?

We look into whether a UK will is sufficient to pass on a second home to chosen inheritors

We look into whether a UK will is sufficient to pass on a second home to chosen inheritors Pic: And-One / Shutterstock

Reader question: I live in the UK and have a second home in France, which I bought with my late husband. Under the terms of his will, my two adult children have inherited my husband’s half en nue propriété.  As this is registered with the French state, I was given to understand that no further action was necessary. I want the whole house to be theirs on my death. Should I make a French will in addition to my UK one to be sure?

It sounds like the property was originally purchased by you and your husband in separate half shares (en indivision), the default joint ownership mechanism in France.

You refer to the nue propriété having passed to the children on your husband’s death. 

Nue propriété is the underlying legal ownership, literally ‘bare’ ownership, which suggests a life interest passed to you as a surviving spouse. You still own the half-share you originally bought, and have also inherited a life interest in your husband’s half- share – a right to use the property for your lifetime.

On your death, your life interest automatically ends, which converts the children’s ownership to full legal title of their father’s half. Your own half-share passes into your estate, and can be dealt with under your will.

This will be administered by a notaire in France, with French succession acts being drafted and signed to transfer title to your beneficiaries, signed in person in France or by power of attorney from the UK. Notaire fees and stamp duties would be payable, and inheritance tax is charged if the value of the inheritance exceeds €100,000 per child.

I recommend that your UK will is reviewed by an expert as it might cause more problems than it solves. A carefully drafted French will limited to the French assets might be a practical solution.

Related articles

Can we opt for the law of our nationality when drawing up our wills?

French property rights: How does tontine clause work on first death?

French inheritance: What widow/widower must do to stay in shared home

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