What will Happen if There’s no French Will? Ask the Experts

What will Happen if There’s no French Will? Ask the Experts

The rules and regulations surrounding Wills and property in France can be daunting. But Charlotte Macdonald provides some tips and advice on how they could affect you and your family.

Is it best to have a UK solicitor write up my will?

We have a house in France and we need to draft a will. What are the advantages of having a UK solicitor write up a will?

I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered situations where a person’s carefully considered and signed UK will has been accidentally revoked by a foreign will which starts with the words ‘I revoke all my previous wills’. If the scope and revocation clauses of a French will are not restricted to France it can have unintended consequences in the UK.

There are a number of advantages to having a UK solicitor, familiar with the laws in France and the EU Succession Regulation, drafting a will/s to cover your assets in France and the UK. This cross-border expert can make sure that your wills work well with one another, they do not revoke one another, and where you are choosing for English law to apply in France, they can make sure that the correct clauses are included.

How does Brexit affect our will?

Does the fact that the UK is no longer part of Europe affect our will? Are our assets in France still subject to French succession law?

No, the fact that the UK is no longer part of Europe does not directly affect your will. Your land and buildings in France will still be subject to French succession law. However, it is possible to by-pass the French succession laws by making an ‘election’ in your will for the laws of your nationality to govern your succession under the EU Succession Regulation. Eg, if you are English you can choose for English succession law to apply to your will. This means you can leave your home to your spouse if you wish.

Please note, however, that there is a change of French law (Art 913 of the Civil Code) coming into force on November 1st 2021 which means if you or any of your children are a national of or resident in an EU country, your election for English law could be partially set-aside. In these circumstances, if your children haven’t received the minimum amount that they would have received under French succession law, the notaire will inform them of this and they will have the option to claim it.

This is a new law, so exactly how it is going to work in practice is still not clear. If you have made an election for the law of your nationality to apply to your will, it is strongly recommended that you review your will at this time to see if the changes to Art 913 are going to affect you.

What will happen if there’s no French will?

My mother owns a holiday apartment in France – if she does not have a French will, what will happen to the property?

If your mother has a will in the UK, the apartment may pass under the terms of the UK will – it will depend on the wording. If your mother has no will to cover her French property, the French intestacy laws will determine who will inherit it when she dies. The intestacy laws give a set order of which family members should inherit in the absence of a will. It will depend on which family members survive your mother as to who will inherit, often it will be the spouse and children.

For more information about the cross border treatment of your civil partnership, wills or inheritance tax please contact the international and cross-border team at Stone King LLP – Charlotte Macdonald, Dan Harris, Raquel Ugalde, Emma Seaton, Bryony Anning or Graeme Beattie, either by calling +44(0)1225 337599 or by emailing [email protected].

Article written by Charlotte Macdonald and trainee solicitor Bryony Anning.

Lead photo credit : Shutterstock

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