French Gift Tax FAQ: Can I Adopt My Adult Stepchild in France?


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French Gift Tax FAQ: Can I Adopt My Adult Stepchild in France?

Jacques Cutting, a bilingual paralegal in Stone King’s international and cross-border team, answers legal and practical questions that are often asked by clients in relation to France; whether that be buying or selling property in France, inheritance law, and how inheritance is treated between the UK and France.

Here, he looks at the adoption of an adult as a way to reduce French inheritance tax.

Question: “I want to gift assets to my stepdaughter”

Peter is originally from Oxford, and now lives in France. Following Brexit he decided to become a dual national and had recently obtained French nationality.

Peter and his wife have a son, Eddie who is 25. His wife also has a daughter, Evie who is 36, from her previous marriage. Even though technically Evie is his stepdaughter, Peter considers Evie to be his daughter and wishes for Eddie and Evie to receive an equal share of his assets when he dies.

Peter’s French assets are in the region of €600,000. He wants to leave all his French assets to Eddie and Evie equally.

As Eddie is Peter’s legal child, when he inherits he will benefit from the French €100,000 inheritance tax-free allowance (this is the allowance available between parent and child) and pay French inheritance tax at the rate of 5% to 45% on a sliding scale.

Evie, being Peter’s stepchild, will only benefit from the French €1,594 inheritance tax-free allowance (the rate between two unrelated people) and will pay French inheritance tax at the flat rate of 60%.

This means that even though Eddie and Evie may be treated equally under Peter’s Will, they will walk away with very different amounts after inheritance tax has been paid.

Peter wants to know if:

  1. he can legally adopt Evie in France (he is aware that it is not possible to adopt an adult in the UK), and
  2. if it is possible and he does adopt Evie, whether it will help to ensure that Evie and Eddie inherit the same amount from him on death, once French inheritance tax has been paid.

1. The initial criteria to adopt an adult in France

The adoption of an adult is possible in France so long as the person adopting is at least 26 years old and French resident and at least 15 years older than the person being adopted.

If the person adopting is married, the spouse will have to give their consent.

2. How to consent to the adoption

The person being adopted must give their consent before a French Notary.

However, if the person being adopted lives abroad, consent will be obtained by a French diplomatic or consular officer.

The person wishing to adopt, and the person being adopted can change their mind about the adoption at any time until the adoption decision is formalised. The person being adopted can keep their surname or change their name to that of their new ‘parent’.

3. The different types of adoption

There are two types of adoption in France, the adoption simple or the adoption pleniere. The adoption pleniere is only possible if the person being adopted is under 21.

Under the adoption simple, the relationship with the original family is not broken and co-exists with the new relationship with the adoptive family. This means that if Peter’s adoption of Evie is successful, in the eyes of the French administration, Evie would have two fathers and one mother.

4. Formality

There was an amendment to French law in February 2022, which aims to simplify the administrative procedure. A person wishing to adopt an adult will need to complete the Cerfa form and send it to their local French Court for approval.

If Peter had taken care of Evie for at least 5 years while she was a minor, Peter may be able to apply to adopt Evie without the use of a lawyer.

Otherwise, Peter will have to prove that he has taken care of Evie for at least 10 years (which can include the time when she was a child and an adult).  However, we recommend using a French lawyer or Notaire as they will know what the Judge is expecting and will increase your chances of a favourable decision.

To obtain a favourable outcome, Peter will need to provide evidence to the Judge.  This evidence could include:

  • Proof of payment for Evie’s school expenses (whilst she was a child);
  • Proof of Evie living in the family home at some time;
  • Any bills paid on Evie’s behalf;
  • Witness statements from friends, teachers, etc

After examining Peter’s application, the Judge will notify Peter about their decision. If the Judge rejects the application, Peter may be able to appeal within 15 days. Where the adopted person was born abroad, the decision is transcribed on the registers of the central civil status service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5. Duty of care

Adoption creates a link of parentage which gives the adopted child rights and duties in her new family, while maintaining ties with her family of origin.

Under French law, once Evie is adopted, Peter may have a duty of care to Evie if ever is she financially unable to care for her basic needs. Evie should also note that she could have the same duty of care to Peter. She may have to cover Peter’s care home fees, for example, if he became destitute.

6. Succession

Under French law, Evie could be entitled to inherit from both her biological father and adoptive father.  However, she will not be automatically entitled to a share of Peter’s parent’s estate in France if they have any assets in France.

In short, it may be possible for Peter to adopt Evie even though she is an adult. If his adoption of Evie were successful it could help to ensure equality after his death between his children.

For more information please contact the international and cross-border team at Stone King LLP –Charlotte Macdonald, Dan Harris, Raquel Ugalde, Emma Seaton, Bryony Anning, Marina Emmanouel or Jacques Cutting either by calling +44(0)1225 337599 or by emailing [email protected].

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