Reader Question: My French second home is in my name. I have since entered into a civil partnership in the UK. How does this affect my rights to the property and my partner’s rights?
Inheritance and property ownership can be a complicated subject, especially when dealing with laws and legislation in two different countries, as is the case here.
Fortunately, in this instance the answer is clear.
“The good news is that the UK civil partnership does not affect the reader’s ownership of the French property,” said John Kitching, director of French Law Consultancy, a firm that assists British clients with French assets.
“But the ‘bad news’ (depending on whether you wanted a change or not) is the same fact – notably because there is no right of the partner to inherit automatically on intestacy [if no will is made] unless the civil partnership has been registered as a marriage. For more on how to make this change see here.
Points to note if there are children
“Basically, [if the reader wants this to happen] she needs to make a will, and if she leaves the property to their civil partner under the will, then this inheritance would be tax-free.
“The reader should note, however, that if she has any children, they will be reserved heirs under French law, meaning they have automatic rights over part of the value of the property.”
Until recently this was not generally a problem with holiday homes as France applied an EU rule that the law of the country of last main residence should apply to the estate of residents abroad who own property in France. UK law generally does not have forced heirship rules, although Scotland has a limited version, but not concerning real estate.
However, a French law dating from last year gives children who do not inherit their usual ‘reserved share’ under French heirship rules [due to the deceased selecting for the inheritance law of another country] the right to ask for compensation out of any part of the deceased’s estate located in France.
Generally, if you own a property in France, the best way to ensure that it passes on to the person or people you want is to draw up [or have a notaire draw up] a will in France, even if you already have a UK will.
A French notaire or a UK lawyer specialising in French law, should be able to advise if necessary.