French Inheritance Law

If you are an executor or administrator of an estate where there are French assets and you need to apply for Probate in France IWC can help. We provide a seamless service for dealing with both UK and French probate. Our specialist bi-lingual, associate solicitors are well versed with the procedures and practices of the French inheritance laws and the probate system.

Dealing with probate in France is generally a lengthy process and laws are completely different to the UK, for example the deceased does not have the right to choose how assets are bequeathed. IWC offer free help and advice on 0800 612 6105 or 0044 208 150 2010 if you're calling from France.

French Inheritance in Relation to Property

French law governs the inheritance to immovable property situated in France, regardless of the deceased's nationality or place of residence. Any property which is governed by French inheritance law cannot be freely disposed of by will.

It is based on the legal principle that property should be preserved within the bloodline; the surviving descendants this includes parents, nieces, nephews etc.

A law passed in 2007, now allows the spouse to inherit in the event that there are no children, in preference to the deceased's parents, siblings, nephews etc.

Only if there are no surviving heirs can owners dispose of immovable properties with French wills.

Reserve Legale refers to the proportion of the estate which must be bequeathed to surviving decendants. The size of this reserved portion varies according to the number of heirs.

Once the size of the Reserve Legale has been established, the remainder of the estate (quotite disponible), can be disposed of as the owner wishes, i.e. as per a valid will.

Domicile is important, if the deceased has assets in the UK but resided in France, French inheritance law will apply to the UK assets too.

The Probate Process

You will need to apply for probate in France and submit an inheritance tax return if the deceased had assets there. This is known as an Acte de notoriete, which you'll need to administer the estate. This document must be prepared by a French notaire, unlike in the UK where it is possible to obtain probate independently.

IWC and our associates can deal with the entire process on your behalf for a low-cost, fixed fee. This includes applying for UK probate and an Acte de notoriete. Call us on 0800 612 6105 or 0044 208 150 2010 for your free quote.

Inheritance tax

French inheritance tax is applied to the beneficiaries rather than to the estate, this often creates a scenario where inheritance tax is charged in England and in France. Although, it is possible to offset this against the English tax.

Taxes are hefty; percentages vary between 5-60% dependent on the amount inherited and relationship to the deceased, step-children for example can be taxed up to 60%.

Needless to say, if you own property in France, you should always make provisions for the ones you'll leave behind. IWC can help you to limit the strict effect of the French inheritance laws with an altération of matrimonial regime or with the inclusion of a clause tontine in the property title deeds. Call now on 0800 612 6105 or 0044 208 150 2010.


Call us for a quote, instant help or impartial advice on freephone 0800 612 61050800 calls are free - 0333 are local rate - Just click to Call
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