Understanding how French estate planning works

Understanding and avoiding French succession law

As we get older, many of us think more about the legacy we will leave: specifically, how and to whom our assets will pass on our death.

For peace of mind, review your estate planning arrangements regularly to ensure your wishes will be fulfilled, taking account of regulatory reforms or changes in your family.

Estate planning is made more complicated for British expatriates by French succession taxes (which can be as high as 60%) and the “forced heirship” succession law. I looked at succession tax in my February article, so this month I focus on succession law.

Forced heirship

France’s Napoleonic code dictates how your assets must be distributed on your death.

The key points are:

  • For French residents, succession law applies to worldwide assets (excluding real estate outside France);
  • For non-residents, French real estate is subject to the succession law rules;
  • Assets do not automatically pass in accordance with your will;
  • Children are protected heirs, inheriting up to 75% ...

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