How does France’s 2021 law affect wills choosing foreign legal rules?

Controversial 2021 inheritance law has complicated issues with regard to the EU regulation that allows foreign people to opt for inheritance law of original country

Heirs not in line for inheritance under other systems could still be eligible for a portion of the estate under French law

Reader Question: A recent Connexion article said that a 2021 French law states that any children who did not inherit anything because their deceased parent chose for a non-French inheritance law to apply to their will should be invited to claim compensation.

What would this ‘inviting’ involve and is the notaire obliged to agree, despite the wishes in the will?

This French law complicates matters with regard to an EU inheritance regulation in force since 2015 that allows people to choose the law of their country of nationality to apply to their whole estate.

English law, for example, does not include any set children’s portions, unlike French law, so allows parents more flexibility.

The French law applies where the deceased or one of their children was an EU citizen or living in the EU at the time of death, and where a foreign law was chosen that has no forced heirship.

It says the notaire should inform any (bloodline or adopted) children of the deceased of the portions French law would have allowed them (eg. half the estate in the case of one child).

If the children ask for this, the notaire should set aside for them a portion to compensate for this from any French-based estate.

Likelihood of this happening is rare

One notaire with international clients told The Connexion that in reality this would only happen automatically if the children and named heirs in the will agree to it.

If not, he said the children would have to apply to a French court to rule on the issue, which could usually be done without them having to come to France.

We are not aware of any specific cases so far.

The European Commission is considering several complaints about the 2021 French law regarding inheritance.

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