What to do when French and English lawyers disagree

Every other day, we share a reader question from our help guide, Inheritance Law and Wills in France. Today's question is about disagreements between your lawyers.

19 October 2020
Last will and testament. Question from The Connexion's inheritance laws and wills help guide. Melinda Gimpel / UnsplashQuestion from The Connexion's inheritance laws and wills help guide. Melinda Gimpel / Unsplash
By Connexion Journalist

My husband and I owned a second home in France but were resident in the UK at the time of his death. He had made a will in the UK leaving everything to me but specifically excluding the French property as we assumed French law would apply to that.

However, there is a disagreement between my French notaire and UK lawyer: the former says since my husband made a UK will he opted for UK law to apply to the whole of his estate, and it cannot be split between two jurisdictions. The UK solicitor says because the UK opted out of the European regulation he was within his rights to exclude the French property: so French succession law should apply to that. Who is right?

The UK solicitor is correct and the French notaire is understandably confused as all other member states ratified the EU Succession Regulation apart from the UK, Ireland and Denmark. The confusion arises because the regulation has a principle that only one succession law should apply. However, as the UK did not ratify the regulation, then two legal systems can apply.

As your husband died resident in the UK, English law applies to his estate. He has excluded his French property from his will and therefore not elected English law to apply to it. His French property estate is therefore intestate. English law applies French law to the French property, and as such it passes under French intestacy law.

If there are French moveable assets in the deceased’s name, such as bank accounts, then these are dealt with under English law, either under the will (depending on what the precise exclusion is) or under English intestacy law. In any case, the notaire must administer the French property. He or she can contact the Cridon [legal research service with international specialists] who should reiterate this analysis.

Find out all the information you need to create a will in France and more with our Inheritance Law and Wills in France 2020 help guide
Inheritance Law and Wills in France 2020 Help Guide
Inheritance Law and Wills in France 2020 Help Guide

Inheritance Law and Wills in France 2020 Help Guide

This 64-page help guide by The Connexion details all the information you need to know about inheritance law and wills in France. It looks at how to create a British will in France, explains succession laws, procedures on a death, creating a will as a couple, leaving funds to family and pets, and so much more. Click here to find out more.

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