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French inheritance law: a brief overview

Though non-resident property owners in France now have the option of choosing their country’s inheritance law to apply in the case of their death, it is important to be aware of how French inheritance law works, and in which cases it would be beneficial to have it apply.

Real estate was subject to the inheritance law of the country where the property was located until an EU law enacted in August 2015 made it possible for an owner to opt instead for the law of their own country of citizenship to apply rather than French law simply by drafting a French will to that effect. It remains critical, however, to make the right choices about which law will apply, and thus to be aware of how French inheritance law works.

You cannot disinherit your children under French law, as a certain amount of one’s estate is reserved for them. Half of your estate goes to your child if you have one, two-thirds in the case that you have two, and three-quarters if you have three or more children. You may, however, provide for a certain child to receive more than another.

A spouse has certain privileges under French inheritance laws, even if a divorce or separation was underway at the time of the deceased’s death. If the spouse has children with the deceased, they may either inherit in usufruct, using the estate directly and deriving profit from it without altering it, or obtain full ownership of a quarter of the estate. If the deceased has children with another partner, the spouse only has the second option available.

Spouses are guaranteed a tax-free inheritance, and in the case that the deceased does not have any children and made it clear in their will, the spouse can be the sole heir, obtaining the entire estate tax-free. As for parents of the deceased, although one can disinherit them, French law guarantees them the right of return, which means that they can rightfully reclaim property that they had given to their child, after their child’s death – effectively seizing that portion of the estate from the deceased’s spouse and children. French law is also increasingly taking into account inheritance for nieces and nephews, with certain provisions making it less heavily taxed so that one can leave nieces or nephews an inheritance.

Paris Property Group can help you navigate the complexities of buying or selling property in Paris.


Contact Paris Property Group to learn more about buying or selling property in Paris.

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