Guide to French Inheritance Laws and Taxation
Monday 03 September 2007
There are few subjects that provoke more discussion and confusion amongst international buyers than that of the inheritance laws of the country.
These laws are complex and can sometimes cause difficulties because of their rigid nature and the taxation liabilities that can arise.
Whereas in many countries inheritance laws strongly favour the surviving spouse, France grants specific and entrenched rights of inheritance to the children.
There is a strong historical tradition to this approach, based on a desire to protect the interests of the family.
Accordingly, if you own French property you are not, per se, completely free to dispose of your property in the way that you might wish, say, through a will.
In recent years there have been significant improvements in the law, to the extent that the average married couple from abroad should have few concerns about inheritance laws.
Indeed, as far as inheritance tax is concerned, there is no longer any liability between those who are married, or those in a French civil partnership. There are also generous tax allowances for children.
Even if you may be potentially liable to inheritance tax, there are numerous methods that can be used to retain control of your property and transmit family wealth to your children.
But, you would be wise to start off on the right foot, anticipate your own mortality and plan ahead.
If you are not married, or you are married with children from a previous relationship, there is a particular priority to give thought to inheritance planning in order to secure greater control over your estate, plan an orderly inheritance, and reduce the potential inheritance tax liability of inheritors.
Tax considerations apart, France is plagued by disputes between inheritors, which often drag on for years, so some steps to avoid acrimony and deadlock would be well-advised.
It is a point often overlooked by international advisors, whose main expertise and interest, not surprisingly, is on taxation issues.
You can read the guide at Guide to French Inheritance Laws and Taxation.