Charlotte Macdonald is an associate solicitor in Stone King’s international and cross border team.
Over a new 12-part series of articles Charlotte will answer legal and practical questions that are often asked by her clients in relation to buying or selling property in France, inheritance law, and how inheritance and capital gains tax are treated between the UK and France.
Different Types of Inheritance Laws
In England and Wales we have very flexible inheritance laws. This flexibility means that we can, broadly speaking, leave our assets to whomever we want when we die. When we make a will we can name as our beneficiaries any of our family members and/or friends and/or charities etc. We are not forced by law to leave our assets to a particular person or people.
In France the law is different; if you have children you must leave them a percentage of your assets when you pass away. So the default position, if you own a home in France and have children, is that on your death you must leave a percentage of your French home to your children.
This may not be what you want to do. For example, you may want to leave your home to your spouse, or you may want to leave it to only one of your children, rather than to all your children equally.
In 2015 a new EU regulation came into force (650/2012). This regulation is more commonly known as Brussels IV or the Succession Regulation.
It gives people the option to elect for the inheritance laws of their nationality to apply on their death.
If you are British (most closely associated with England and Wales) you can make a will which covers your French property and elect for English and Welsh inheritance law to apply.
This means, even if you have children, you can choose the more flexible English inheritance laws to apply in France – which will give you the freedom to choose who you wish to leave your French home to when you pass away.
Many British people want to know how Brexit is going to affect the application of the EU Succession Regulation. People often want to know if they should postpone making their wills until we have some certainty on Brexit.
The good news is that it is highly unlikely Brexit will have a direct impact on how the EU Succession Regulation works for British people.
The reason for this is that the UK was one of only 3 EU countries not to sign up to EU Succession Regulation. Therefore the UK is already treated as if it is a non-EU member country for the application of this regulation.
Put simply, following Brexit, a British person will still be able to choose the laws of their nationality to govern the inheritance of their French property.
For more information please contact Charlotte Macdonald, Dan Harris or Raquel Ugalde at Stone King LLP either by calling +44(0)1225 337599, or by emailing: [email protected]