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Non-residents need for a French will

Steve Last

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Can anyone point to advice on whether a UK-resident owner of a French property (second home) who has an up-to-date valid UK will, also needs a French one? Her intentions in respect of her French property are very simple - she has no children and is unmarried and wishes it to pass to a single named individual. If it is required, is there a simple template available?

Thanks, Steve
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French property is usually dealt with according to French succession law. But as she is UK resident there are things she can do to influence this slightly.

Relatives .. except a spouse .. are treated more leniently than 'an unrelated individual' as regards inheritance tax.

While I am no expert I would suggest that she might make a UK will naming this 'individual' as the sole heir to the property. Then she makes a French will saying that she wants her French property to be passed on according to her UK will ref this property.

There are downsides .. I believe the tax cost of inheriting the property could be 60% of the value as declared by the Notaire.

Then there are the transfer of title costs.

Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than me will be along soon.

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I agree with suein56. Since there are no close relatives involved, there won't be any dispute over her leaving her property to a chosen third party, she just needs to make her wishes clear, so either a French will referring to an English will, or a French will alongside an English will.

However, as said, inheritance tax on anything inherited from a non relative is very steep at around 60%, with a very low allowance before the tax kicks in. I believe too that the tax has to be paid within a fairly short time of the inheritance, so if the heir wishes to sell the house and it doesn't find a purchaser immediately, the tax would still have to be paid. Saying that I think it's possible to arrange to delay payment or pay in instalments, but interest would be incurred.

So the owner and the prospective heir would need to discuss all this, because if it came as a "surprise" inheritance it might cause problems. Depending on the value of the property, giving 60% to the French state could be quite painful.

There is unfortunately no way round French succession tax on a property in France. I'm in the same situation - not married, no kids, own a house, haven't a clue what to do with it when I shuffle off this mortal coil.
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I think that I would be leaving everything to some properly registered charity that I liked, rather than let the government get it's grubby hands on it.

If there really is no family, then there would be an allowance of 1594€ on the value and then a tax of 60%.

Needs good legal advice.

And I reckon a lot of it is better now than it used to be.

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idun wrote: "I think that I would be leaving everything to some properly registered charity that I liked, rather than let the government get it's grubby hands on it."

Those were my thoughts. But then I thunk, "What benefit would it be to a charity? Going to the trouble of marketing and selling a tiny terrace house is probably going to more of a burden than a benefit, I doubt they'd thank me for it.

What to do for the best.
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What executors, though?

I did discuss it with my notaire and the way she explained it, the main beneficiary automatically becomes responsible for the estate,and they have to follow any instructions left by the deceased. So if for instance I put in my will that I wanted my piano to go to a friend in the UK, the charity would be responsible arranging transport and ensuring that the piano was safeily delivered to the friend in the UK.

I suppose the notaire would do the job if asked (I didn't ask and she didn't suggest it or even hint at it) but her fees would probably come to more than the selling price of the house.

I guess I'll just leave it for the commune to sort out.
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I have to say this has seriously worried me if my OH goes before me. I had thought I could just leave the house to my previous marriage step-children and that 40% of something would be better than nothing. I didn't realise they would have to pay off the 60% quickly or incur interest. As the step-children are on different continents and we have no near family, I had worried about who would sort it all out here. If you appoint someone to sort it out (I had thought my sister-in-law in UK who does speak some French), then I would like to leave her something for her trouble but it seems that would also incur 60%. I had also wondered about a Notaire sorting it out but decided that would be hugely expensive. It is difficult trying to work out how to do it so I am interested how others in the same situation are going about it.
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Normally nowadays it is expected that the taxes due will be paid with the 6 months following the death.

My friend, who was widowed 3 years ago, had a problematic period as she put up for sale the family home .. which was in 'his' name only .. asap but it took 18 months to find a buyer and then there were complications as it was a couple buying with the parents of the wife. All in all it took nearly 2 1/2 years to conclude the sale and the interest due on the debt was eye-watering.

Lessons learnt all round.

It meant my friend could not buy the apartment she wanted but the one her family found for her is very nice .. just smaller than she wanted and not quite where she wanted to be.
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I don't know the ins and outs .. just that the estate was divided between my friend and the 2 children .. and that there was quite a lot of tax to pay.

The problem was the family were quite asset rich but income poor so paying the taxes within the time required was impossible .. due to the 2 1/2 years needed for the sale to go through.

It was a substantial house with a super sea view but it needed work doing on it.

Hubby had at least one other (inherited) plot he owned too.
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OK, I hadn't realised that you couldn't appoint executors in France. One thing I had never looked into.


system used to be, IMO horrific, and yet, in some ways there was a

bizarre fairness to it too, which sounds odd, but it was what it was.

Then it changed and became better IMO.


most of my time in France was under the old system, and even though we

had never intended to stay in France upon retirement for many many

reasons, once I heard numerous inheritance horror stories, that just

sealed the deal, for me a bad place to stay in one's dotage and be

sorting that little lot out. 

And because of those pesky inheritance things, I hope that we don't have to move back, but we still may have to.

Not that the system is easy now, my DIL had terrible problems when her mother died.

Doesn't help the OP though does it.

So for the OP, the notaire would want to know if the deceased had siblings and living parents. Even if she left it to someone else, they may have a claim on the estate too.

Your friend needs to speak to a french notaire or several and get this sorted out.

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I'm not sure siblings are protected heirs, are they?

There are various "degrees" of kinship, with parent-child being first degree. Siblings are second degree I believe (significantly higher tax than for first degree heirs). I thought it was only an issue if you try to disinherit first-degree blood relations.

But yes, must get advice from a good notaire.
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Thanks for all the responses - obviously of concern to quite a few people! In our case the siblings/children question . isn't an issue, it is my wife's sister whose house is in the same village as us. She is not married and has no children but wants to leave it to her partner, which is absolutely fine with the rest of the family. However the 60% tax rate was a bit of a shocker. I think if she formalised a civil partnership it might get round that. But clearly it is not as simple a situation as hoped!
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As I understand the French inheritance of property, there would be no French inheritance tax to pay if she formalised a civil partnership as long as she wrote a new will. The old one would be revoked automatically by the change of status.
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Yes, a civil partnership should help. But, IF he dies first, then she is in the same position.

We have to face facts that it is highly unusual for both people in a relationship to 'go' on the same day....... isn't it?

Good legal advice is all I can suggest.

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