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Will French step-children inherit my estate?

John Kitching of French Law Consultancy answers a reader query

a donation entre époux can be revoked in certain circumstances Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I legally donated (donation entre époux) my worldwide inheritance to my French husband in the event of my death before his. We could not put a clause in the marriage contract as he had two children from a previous marriage. I have dual British/French nationality and no children. My husband died last year and I wish to know if the gift of inheritance is null and void or if I must rescind it. Will my inheritance pass to his children upon my death?

As you have no children, you are free to leave your estate to whoever you wish, which you can do using a will.

If you do not have a will, then your closest living bloodline relatives inherit.

Your late husband’s children are not your bloodline relatives and have no rights to your estate unless you have adopted them.

However, as your husband died before you with two children, the donation entre époux probably leaves the maximum legally permitted share to you as spouse, and you probably now co-own your husband’s estate with his children.

Whether you have a life interest or a share of ownership of the estate, in either case, the children are entitled to their share of their father’s assets that might be co-owned by you.

What is a donation entre époux?

A donation entre époux is an agreement prepared by a notaire to establish your inheritance wishes that takes effect only on death.

It is usually used to leave the maximum share possible to a surviving spouse.

It can be revoked by a will or by divorce, and is allowed only for married couples, not for Pacs partners.

A correctly drafted will provides protection for the spouse or civil/Pacs partner, can have second death provisions, and is more readily recognised outside of France.

As your husband has died, your donation entre époux no longer takes effect. I recommend you seek help to prepare a will stating who you wish to inherit your estate.

Related articles 

Explainer: Role of notaire in France and what to do if not happy

What are the rules for a handwritten will in France?

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