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who gets what when we die?


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[8-)]Iam sure similar questions like this have been asked........ I am married to my current husband we have no children. i have 2 children from a previous marriage, he has none. in England it is our intention to leave each other the right to reside in our property, which is jointly owned. On the death of the remaining partner the property will be divided half to my children the other half to my husbands nieces. However we both would love to move to France and it would be our intention to buy jointly there, but what will happen when one of us dies? I am beginning to have serious doubts about fufilling our dream. Can anyone offer a solution?
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I was discussing this with our notaire 3 days ago. Fortunately we only have "our" kids.

I'm going to assume that all your joint estate will be in France.

In France you can set things up so that whichever of you goes first the other one owns the whole house. However what happens when the second one goes is not under your control the way it is in the UK.

If you die first then your husband may be able to split things the way you want, depending on what other living relatives he may have.

If you survive him then under French law your sons automatically get a majority of your estate. I don't remember the numbers but I doubt if you can direct more than 25% to his nieces.

Alternatively if you both own the house and one of you goes, then that persons heirs inherit half and the other has the usufruct (right to live there for life) of the whole house. When the second one goes their half goes to their heirs.

This sounds better, but it means that it is very difficult to sell the house if the survivor wants to move. Legally the heirs of the first one to die have to agree the sale and get their share of the proceeds.

There are probably ways to deal with this, such as setting up a company to buy the house and giving the shares to the kids before either of you shuffle off. Then you would need a watertight lifetime lease.

TThe only way to get a proper answer is to talk to a French lawyer (probably a notaire).
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France is totally different from the UK.  We are married 15 years, have no kids & only one remaining parent, beween us.

The information we have been given is that in France ascendants (ie Marks dad!!) have an automatic claim to assets (this may or may not apply to you, as we have no kids).  To relinquish this claim he has to state, in writing, that he does not want it (here's hoping!!).

We need to change our marriage regime (to communite) to protect the surviving partner on the inheritance to the house.  After 2 years we can then protect worldwide assets.

Someone on here may be able to give you more details but personnal I would get legal advice - it can be really confusing if it is a second marrige & kids are involved. 

Don't worry about the legal side - leave that up to a company who deals with this sort of thing.  There are plenty about & it would be worth a call to them to set your mind at rest - if you want a few company names, PM me & I'll send them to you.


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We have similar situation.  My daughter, not OH's.  OH has father (aged 86).  His father would inherit a half share of OH's assets (ie a quarter of total assets), same with my daughter.  We asked lots of questions of our notaire re: possible civil marriage, OH adopting my daughter etc etc.  She could not understand where we had heard of all these complicated solutions and her advice was that all we had to do is complete a Donation Entre Epoux which gives each of us a lifetime interest in the assets of the other. ie his father could inherit a quater of our assets but he is not allow to touch them while I am still alive.  It cost 130 euros to do. 

Everyones situation is different, especially when it comes to step families so proper legal advice should always be taken.

However, our notaire told us that inheritance law in France is going to change in the near future but no-one knows what that will entail.  More money to spend.

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We got the same advice from our notaire as La Vette.  Married, no

kids and each own half the house.  A donation entre epoux will

allow the survivor to stay in the house regardless of other inheritors

if there are no children.   She saw no need for us to change

our marriage regime from the separations de bien default for marriages

in UK or Ireland.

This website gives a summary in English


The site also allows you to order a variety of useful booklets in

French and on the first page of the English version of the site, you

can download a booklet on buying or selling a home in France


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It is all well and good if the surviving spouse wants to live in the house until they die but in our case we wanted the surviving spouse to do as they wish upon the death of the other. As much as I love our house in France if something happened to my husband and vice versa perhaps at some stage the other would not want to stay on their own in rural France. From what we can understand the change of marriage regime to the Communant Universal (sp?) was the only way around that.
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There is also an issue of the rate of tax that has to be paid on the value of the inherited property.
It's very little on the part that goes to the children of the deceased, rising as the relationships become more distant (so a niece might have to pay a slightly higher rate). And it becomes enormous (60 or 70 per cent I think) when there is no blood connection at all.

My late husband had three children, and we jointly had one. We had been advised to make a Donation entre Epoux to make sure that the surviving spouse would be allowed to continue to use the house and the furniture, and I have to say that that facilitated the legal side a lot when it came to the crunch. Of course, if the survivor (me) had wanted to sell the house, I should still have had to have the agreement of all four of my husband's children, and they would have had to have their cut of the selling price.

The notaire advised me to buy out all four children - giving them their financial share right away so I would be the sole owner and could do what I liked with the house. (With my own half, plus half my husband's half, I owned three-quarters of the property already; the part concerning the children was most of the remining quarter). However, on asking him what would happen when *I* died, he said the property would go 100 per cent to my daughter (whom I would have bought out, along with her three half-brothers!), as she would be my sole descendent.  When I said that I would have wanted to leave it equally to the *four* children he threw up his hands in horror and said that was impossible as, since they are not my blood relatives, my three stepchildren would have an enormous amount of tax to pay ...

I have to say that all this was only concerning a holiday home, so not too critical.  But it is something that would put me off moving to France permanently as, if all my assets were to come under French inheritance law, that would seem effectively to disinherit my stepchildren.

So make sure you take good professional advice before making a move...


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