Marriage or pacs to avoid tax

I am British and my partner is French and we have lived together for 25 years. We understand that for tax reasons it would be better to be married but the list of documents required – all needing official translation – horrifies me. I wonder if marrying in the UK would be better and how the options might affect our rights. I have two adult sons and my partner has no children. We live in France.

12 November 2017
By Connexion journalist

Whether your marriage was British or French there would no longer be any inheritance tax to pay once you are wed.

Marrying in France would be an opportunity to weigh up options for the ways in which property is owned in the marriage (which may effect how it is passed on) but it is also possible to change the “regime” relating to a British marriage via a French notaire.

If marrying in France appears complicated, you might consider a pacs (French civil partnership), which involves simplified procedures. However, solicitor Barbara Heslop said while a pacs is popular in France and available to heterosexual and same-sex couples, the formalities required for a non-French national are almost as onerous as for a marriage. Under French law, your sons are reserved heirs and cannot be disinherited. You can, however, postpone their entitlement by giving your partner a life interest in your estate by each making a French will. That said, you could also make use of the EU inheritance regulation if that suits you.

Provided you make a will choosing UK law, you can name your partner as sole beneficiary of your estate. However, French inheritance tax will still be applied and, unless you marry or enter into a pacs, it will be at a rate of 60%.

So, there is no easy solution – even a civil marriage ceremony in the UK would require you to “give notice of the marriage” and your partner would need to provide translations of any documents required by the UK authorities which are not in English.

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2017 Inheritance Law guide (PDF version) - For expats or second home owners - 48 pages
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The guide, to be published on September 25, 2017, includes a chapter on the formalities following a death in France, issues of dependency, and reviews changes to French inheritance law affecting expatriates and second-home owners, which came into force on August 17, 2015
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