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French Inheritance tax.


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Under French law, is it correct to state that a spouse on the death of his/her married partner is liable up to 20% tax on the value of their estate (15,000 to E500,000),  including UK assets, with only an allowance of E70,000?
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I don't think so.  I thought they'd added in another €50000 general relief.  I seem to remember something about the €50000 being applied to the whole estate and each beneficiary getting their personal reliefs.   I got this:

Duties on transfers without valuable consideration are computed according to a progressive or proportional scale, applied to the net amount received by each beneficiary, normally minus a basis relief (abattement à la base). The relief varies according to the degree of kinship between the parties to the transfer. In case of transfer between spouses or between ascendants and descendants, general reliefs (€ 76 000 or € 50 000) or special reliefs apply.

After minus personal reliefs, a general relief is applyed which amount is € 50 000 for inherance to tranfers between parents and children or between spouses...........

Scale applicable between spouses:

Up to € 7 600               5%

€ 7 601 – 15 000        10%

€ 15 001 – 30 000      15%

€ 30 001 – 520 000    20%

from here: http://www.impots.gouv.fr/portal/deploiement/p1/fichedescriptive_1006/fichedescriptive_1006.pdf

Remember that there is also a possibility that UK IHT will come into it (perhaps on both French and UK assets, depending on domicile) so that bears looking into.

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I hope it doesn't matter if I add my question to above thread?

We are still unsure if we should do a CU. It is our first marriage and we have two adult sons. They would not be interested in the French property and I also think if either of us would be left alone we might want to sell (I could never drive on to the Ferry myself!!). I find it very difficult to work out. But perhaps somebody could help me: If the boys would inherit on the death of one parent and the property would be sold for lets say 150'000 Euros, how would it be devided? Perhaps we should just leave it as it is because it would be a good way to give the boys some money to start on the property ladder in England. Thank you in advance.

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Its complicated and if you do a google search on 'france inheritance law' you will find lots of texts.  I believe you have to leave two children a third of the property each - only a third can be willed as you please.  The law has been changed so that the spouse is a reserved heir too, but I note that a lot of the texts online haven't been updated to reflect this.  You have to have a will if you want to will that other third to your spouse as I don't think the amount reserved for the spouse was as much as a third.  Someone will correct me on that if I'm wrong (tried to check but for some reason my connection speed is very slow today, sorry).  Its always best to have a will in any case.  A notaire will advise you.

edit: pc suddenly speeded up and I found the relevant text on the notaires site: (link is http://www.notaires.fr/notaires/notaires.nsf/V_TC_PUB/GBACT )

The new rights of the surviving spouse

The Law of 3rd December 2001 finally gives the surviving spouse a place in inheritance law that is more in line with French aspirations. He/she is the sole heir taking precedence over grandparents, brothers and sisters or more distant relatives. In competition with children, his/her rights have been significantly increased.

The poor relation of French inheritance law: until recently the surviving spouse had only a reduced legal title to succeed his/her husband/wife. Bloodline has always taken precedence over the marriage bond but this principle has now been significantly attenuated by the Law of 3rd December 2001 on the rights of the surviving spouse and children born from an adulterous relationship.
It modernises various provisions of inheritance law. This law gives the surviving spouse a genuine boost. His/her inheritance title is facilitated and because of the accommodation right that the legislator gives him/her for the future, his/her lifestyle is preserved. It will come into force on 1st July 2002 with the exception however of certain provisions and in particular the granting to the surviving spouse of temporary habitation rights in the home and the right to use the furniture in it.

The place of the spouse in the estate

From now on, in the absence of last will and testament provisions or gifts between spouses, the rights of the surviving spouse are significantly increased regardless of the other heirs.

Common children and descendants

If the deceased person only leaves children or descendants of the marriage, the surviving spouse can opt for the usufruct of all the existing estate or ownership of a quarter of the estate. The option facility available to the surviving spouse is personal to him/her and not transferable.
The law does not set any time limit for exercising this option. If the surviving spouse dies without having made a choice, he/she is then deemed to have opted for the whole estate in usufruct. The same holds true if, when invited in writing to exercise his/her option by any heir, the surviving spouse does not make a choice in writing within three months of being requested to do so.

Non-common children and descendants

The deceased person may leave children not stemming from the marriage, for example a child from a previous marriage, an illegitimate child, or a child adopted solely by the deceased. The surviving spouse receives ownership of a quarter of the estate calculated in accordance with new Article 758-5 of the Civil Code. He/she no longer has the option of selecting total usufruct, which may have disadvantages where the spouse is relatively young in relation to the children of a previous marriage.

The father and mother

Where the deceased person leaves his/her father and mother, each of them receives a quarter of the estate while the spouse receives half. If the deceased person leaves only one parent, he/she receives a quarter of the estate and the spouse receives the other three quarters. The
presence of brothers or sisters of the deceased person does not change the rights of the spouse.

By notarised will

A married person may deprive his/her spouse of the right to lifelong accommodation by a will executed by two notaries or one notary in the presence of two witnesses. The purpose of this restrictive provision is to prevent a married person from taking such a serious decision lightly.

Preferential collateral relatives

This term is used to describe brothers and sisters and their descendants, in other words the nephews and nieces of the deceased person. From now on, the surviving spouse can cut them out of the succession. Thus, where the deceased person leaves no children or parents but leaves his/her spouse and brothers and sisters, the latter are excluded from the succession.

Except for a right of reversion of half

The legislator, however, wished to adjust this principle by allowing certain property received into the family by blood to be retained. From now on, full ownership of half of any property that the deceased had received from his/her father and mother by inheritance or gift and which appears
in kind in his/her estate reverts to the brothers and sisters of the deceased or their descendants (these brothers and sisters must have come from the same deceased parent who originated the transfer) and the other half goes to the surviving spouse.

Grandparents, uncles and cousins

The spouse also excludes from the succession heirs of subsequent orders who are ordinary relatives in the ascending line, in other words grandparents, great grandparents… and ordinary collateral relatives : uncles and aunts, cousins… In these cases the spouse will inherit ownership of the whole estate.

An allowance for grandparents

These new rights granted by legislation to the surviving spouse are not without another side. The latter could be liable to pay support to any grandparents removed from the succession. This support will be charged against the estate and paid in the form of a pension.

Points to be remembered

Where the deceased leaves no relatives in the ascending or descending line, the spouse becomes the heir who cannot be disinherited in respect of a quarter of the estate.
The right to temporary accommodation is immediately applicable. To enjoy a lifelong right to accommodation, the surviving spouse must express this desire within one year of the death.
Only a non-divorced spouse against whom there is no separation judgement with the force of res judicata is an heir.

Temporary accommodation right

Regardless of the marriage scheme, the surviving spouse enjoys a free right of undisturbed possession of his/her home and the furniture in it. This only relates to the home
actually occupied by the spouse as the principal residence on the date of the death.

From 4th December

In respect of any succession opened with effect from the publication of the new law in the official journal, i.e. 4th December 2001, the surviving spouse enjoys free right of undisturbed possession of his/her home and the furniture in it for one year. This right is his/hers regardless of the heirs or
legatees. The benefit of this right is granted by law and order and cannot be removed by a contrary wish of the deceased.


This temporary right can be exercised regardless of whether the married couple are the owners or tenants of their principal residence. If they were joint owners or if the property came from the estate of the pre-deceased spouse, this right takes the form of free undisturbed possession of the home and the furniture in it. If they are tenants, the rent will be reimbursed by the estate to the surviving spouse as and when it is paid.

Lifelong entitlement to accommodation

In respect of any succession opened, this time with effect from 1st July 2002, the spouse may enjoy a free right to live in the home and use the furniture in it until his/her own death. If he/she is a tenant, the surviving spouse shall only enjoy the right to use the furniture.
The surviving spouse must express the desire to enjoy these rights of accommodation and use within one year of the death.

Charge against ownership rights received

If the spouse requests it, the value of this lifelong accommodation right and right to use the furniture is deducted from the other rights received from the estate, particularly in the presence of children, from the owned quarter reverting to him/her. If the value of these rights
is less than that of his/her inheritance rights the spouse may take the rest from the existing assets. If the opposite is true, he/she shall not be bound to indemnify the estate.

Possibility of renting

Finally, if the home encumbered by the accommodation right is no longer suited to the needs of the spouse, the latter may rent it for any use other than commercial or agricultural in order to generate the necessary resources for his/her new accommodation.

With the agreement of everyone

The lifelong accommodation right may even be converted to a life annuity or a capital sum but only with the agreement of the spouse and the heirs.

The special inheritance rights of the spouse

One of the major contributions of this new law is that, in certain cases, it gives the surviving spouse the status of an heir who cannot be totally disinherited. If there are no heirs in ascending or descending line, he/she enjoys an inheritance right representing one quarter of the estate. In
order to secure this status, he/she must not be involved in divorce or separation proceedings. Thus, if there are no heirs in ascending or descending line, the pre-deceased spouse cannot freely dispose of more than three quarters of his/her assets to persons other than his/her spouse.

Example of special inheritance rights

The deceased leaves his/her spouse and one sister, general devisee and legatee. In the absence of relations in the ascending or descending line, the spouse is the heir who cannot be totally disinherited. He/she may take action to reduce the general legacy given to his/her sisterin-
law. The latter can therefore only lay claim to three quarters of the estate while the spouse will receive one quarter by virtue of his/her status as an heir who cannot be totally disinherited.

No special inheritance rights

The deceased leaves his/her spouse, maternal grandfather and sister, general devisee and legatee. If there is a relation in the ascending line, the surviving spouse is not considered to be a rightful heir. He/she therefore cannot take action to reduce the legacy. The general devisee and
legatee receives the whole of the estate except however for the temporary accommodation right granted to the surviving spouse.

A few other provisions

As under the old law, the estate of the pre-deceased spouse owes an allowance to the surviving spouse who is in need. The preferential allocation enabling the surviving spouse to secure the ownership or lease of the accommodation which is his/her actual home, within the framework of the sharing out of the estate, is now enshrined in law. And furthermore, it is extended to the furniture in it. The usufruct received by the surviving spouse legally, by will, or by gift between husband and wife, can be converted into a life annuity at the request of the heirs or the spouse. This conversion facility is a matter of law and order. However, with regard to the home and furniture, the conversion cannot be ordered against the will of the spouse. This conversion facility is a matter of law and order and cannot be ordered against the will of the spouse in relation to the usufruct of the home he/she occupies as a principal home and the furniture in it.

Room for freedom

The new law improves the situation of the spouse but leaves significant room to accommodate the wishes of the married couple. They are still able to improve the situation of the surviving spouse and tailor their provisions to their particular situation.

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[quote user="Monika"]

If the boys would inherit on the death of one parent and the property would be sold for lets say 150'000 Euros, how would it be devided?  [/quote]

From the above, I reckon that if the property is jointly and equally owned then the estate of one spouse would be €75000 and your two sons would get €50000 of this as their right and the surviving spouse would get €18750 by right - or could opt for usufruct of the whole estate instead.  If there was a will, the spouse could be left the remaining €25000 or one third of the estate.  No inheritance taxes would be payable on this size of estate.

This is assuming that both adult children are children of the first marriage, as you implied.

Please jump in and correct me if I'm wrong, anyone!

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[quote user="fcr"]

Hi Monica

We did the handwritten will bit when we bought 4 years ago. it's quite simple, not expensive and reassuring.



Hello Fi, I am just looking for the name of this will, do you remember?  And will we actually write it at the Notaires office or do we write it at home, if so where would we get the wording?

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It is a testament olographe. It can be written anywhere, as long as it is in your own handwriting, signed and dated. The notaire will give you the wording suitable for your situation, or you may be able to find one in a book or on the internet. But be careful, a lot of French-language legal sites that come up via Google or similar are in fact Canadian or Belgian.

This is a typical form of wording for a testament olographe:

Ceci est mon testament.

Je soussigné(e) ... (nom, prénoms), domicilié(e) à ... (ville) ... (nom du département) ... (adresse), prends ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  :

Je ¤ ¤  :

- à ... (nom, prénoms), domicilié(e) à ... (ville) ... (nom du département) ... (adresse) ... ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  ;

- à ... (nom, prénoms), domicilié(e) à ... (ville) ... (nom du département) ... (adresse) ... ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  ;

- à ... (nom, prénoms), domicilié(e) à ... (ville) ... (nom du département) ... (adresse) ... ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  ;

En cas de ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  personnes, sa part viendra ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  restant sauf cas ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ .

Ecrit ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤  à ... (ville) le ... (date en toutes lettres) et en ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ .


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We need to get around to doing this soon if we want to do something more specific than let it default, as there could be arguements that our UK wills should come into it and then lots of legal wrangles ensue - do you lodge a copy with the local notaire or something?  ie How would anybody know there was a will if anything happened to say both of us at once?  Obviously if it was only one of us the other would know.........or do we just give a copy of it to our UK executor?  (Probably, but just asking in case there is a specific procedure in France!)
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We have ours at home, there is no need to register them if you don't want. And I must say that the wording on ours is rather different to that of Will the Conq's and no date on it, off the top of my head, although I would have to look that up.

If you take them to the Notaire there is a central registry that used to be in Aix en Provence, or so I was told, and in the event of a death, that registry should be checked by the notaire sorting the affairs out.

If a couple dies at the same time, I seem to remember that someone once told me that they did try and establish who actually died first.

For those who are not married I don't think that you can do this very simple method of sorting your affairs out. As with all this sort of thing it would need discussing with a notaire.

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Beryl, that's how it works out in most cases, but you would need to check the wording on the acte de vente (e.g. did you buy en tontine, or en indivision etc). It could also depend on whether your foreign marrriage regime still applies or you have converted it to communeaute universelle or something else in France. You may find that you get a third and two thirds are divided up between children for example. As virtually every situation is different there is no general answer. Debra's long post above shows some of the procedures and variations - you will see that you are not going to just get kicked out on the death of your spouse, though, whatever the kids may want.

TU - that testament wording was just lifted off a web site giving examples of standard letters etc. In my own opinion there are too many blanks in it with no clue as to what ought to go there to make it any use whatsoever. I'm sure our wills are different too, but as a notaire gave us the wording to use I feel reasonably confident they are correct.

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I think the best thing here is to tackle it from the other angle and ask if your mortgage lender will allow a joint mortgage on a house that is in one name only.   As a loan is normally based on the ability to pay rather than the house value,  do they bother to put a charge on a house deeds in France as they do in the UK?  If they do, then there may be difficulty with it because if there was a default on the loan and the house was only in one name, the bank might not be able to use the house as security for the whole loan - only half of it (ie the half of the loan which is the liability of the owner of the house).  Your marriage contract comes into this in France.  For instance, if you are classed as separation de biens marriage regime, you are not liable for your partner's debts.  You are liable with some of the other marriage regimes so in that case it may not matter whose house the name is in because you are liable for eacher other's debts anyway.  In any case, the mortgage lender may simply require a signature from the owner of the house to verify that the house is the collateral for the whole loan.  This is all only discussion/speculation on my part from my knowledge of having had many mortgages in the UK (where they prefer joint loans to be secured by joint assets) so the comments could be totally off the mark.  Maybe someone with a similar situation in France will know - but I still say its best to ask your mortgage lender.
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