French property: fixed rights of succession

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Most people who have an interest in French property matters will know that one of the most important areas to consider is the question of French inheritance law and tax.  The rules differ substantially from English law, and there are fixed rights of succession that can impose a strict order of succession even if this is not necessarily what may have been intended.

As an example, children have a right to inherit at least a part of their deceased parent’s French property.  This may be of no concern to many, and indeed clients often confirm that they would want to leave as much of their French estate as possible to their children, in the knowledge that the quicker assets are passed down the family line, the more inheritance tax is likely to be saved.

Yet that is not always the case.  There is a difference between children and step-children, with respect to these rules of succession, and especially in relation to inheritance tax consequences.  There may be an overriding intention to ensure that it is the surviving spouse, rather than children, who would inherit the property in the first instance.

Add to that the fact that it is generally unwise – again largely for tax reasons – to leave assets in trust as might commonly happen under English law, then it is perhaps understandable that our fixed-fee French estate planning report service has proved popular since we rolled it out last year.

If you are thinking about buying a property in France, or if you already own one and may benefit from a review, then we would be happy to talk to you about how we may help. For an informal discussion, please call us or complete one of our enquiry forms.


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