What is the best way of dividing assets in a French will?

Partner article: We guide you through key inheritance tax considerations and explain how named beneficiaries take an active part in the succession

Remember that the further removed your beneficiaries are, the greater the rate of tax
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Reader Question: I am British but live in France. Most of my assets are in France and my relatives are in the UK. I have made no will so if I died my assets would go to family by intestacy. If I make a will, do you have tips on the share-out?

There is no need to create a detailed inventory of assets to establish exactly what each beneficiary should inherit.

Indeed, doing so could be counter-productive, especially where you are thinking of distributing among a wide group of beneficiaries: if that one item you envisaged leaving to a particular person is lost or damaged before you die, they might inherit nothing.

One option might be to declare that you are dividing your estate between a number of named beneficiaries, stating the proportion passing to each one.

When the estate comes to be distributed, they can agree on who gets what.

Differences between France and the UK

Note that the process of distributing an estate in France is likely to be different from in England, where a will would name executors whose duties include sharing assets among the beneficiaries.

In France, each beneficiary takes an active part in the succession, so the more people you name, the more people would need to engage directly with the notaire.

Tax considerations

Of more importance is the question of French inheritance tax.

The further removed your beneficiaries are, the greater the rate of tax. This can rise to 60% for unrelated people.

In addition, the personal tax-free allowance available to an unrelated person is only €1,594 – compared to €100,000 for a child.

The greater the number of beneficiaries, the greater the number of tax-free allowances available.

Whether this validates the extra work for the notaire will be a matter of opinion.

Only one of them need fail to engage for problems to occur in the administration.

Gifts to charities might reduce the tax burden a little.

Choosing English law to apply to the succession will not change the tax position.

For more about inheritance, see our help guide to Inheritance Law and Wills in France, (priced €14.50).

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