Complaints grow over France’s inheritance law on forced heirship

European Commission notes wide public interest as it studies legality of 2021 forced heirship rules

A complaint by a British woman about the 2021 French inheritance law on forced heirship is being taken seriously by the European Commission
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Article published March 29, 2023

A complaint by a British woman about the 2021 French inheritance law on forced heirship is being taken seriously by the European Commission, which now reports receiving “a significant number” of similar submissions.

We spoke to the commission in December for an article in our January edition after a reader living in south west France contacted us to report lodging a formal complaint.

Read more: EU to review legality of recent French law on children’s inheritance

At the time, we were told the commission was not aware of any other such complaints on the subject. However, now it acknowledges multiple complaints.

It says it aims to “respond swiftly” and it notes the “potentially wider public issue raised”.

Updates will be published at the link above or here.

The reader, from Tarn, previously told us it felt as if “someone has pulled the carpet away from under you” after France passed the 2021 law.

Read more: Families face stress over new French inheritance law and foreign wills

The law effectively seeks to enforce France’s strict forced heirship rules that favour bloodline children, even where a foreign resident here has opted to use EU rules to choose the inheritance law of their nationality to override this.

It requires the notaire to contact any children who ‘lose out’ due to a foreign French resident’s will provisions, and to offer them financial compensation out of the value of any part of the estate located in France.

The children can choose to pursue this or not. Its aim is said to be to protect daughters in Maghreb families.

However, the law has been widely criticised by notaires, who feel it complicates their role.

Read more: Lawyers in France frustrated over new wills law

It has caused confusion among the many people, including Americans and Britons, who had taken advantage of EU law rules, which have been in force since 2015, to make use of the flexible laws of their nationality.

The reader, aged 76, who prefers not to be named, said: “I’m glad I raised the matter and I’m pleased The Connexion made it a front-page story and reassured people that if they wished to make complaints they could do so in English.

“It seems that the commission has received a lot of complaints. “The article made it easy to do so and there are a lot of people concerned by this. “I’m going to pat myself on the back for having done it. I think we have done a good job.”

The reader’s complaint was submitted via an online form on December 5, 2022.

The European Commission’s website states that as a general rule it can take up to 12 months for it to make assessments about a complaint and decide whether or not to take infringement measures against a member state for a breach of EU law.

The case is listed with the number CHAP(2022)03325.

The form for making complaints to the European Commission can be found here. EU sources states that 'French government' is appropriate wording for the body complained about, as it is responsible for applying the law in question (La loi 2021-1109 du 24 août 2021 confortant le respect des principes de la République).

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