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French Inheritance Law - Assisting Foreigners, Dedicated Services

Inheritance in France

Updated on Thursday 22nd July 2021

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The inheritance rules in France (comprised by French Inheritance Law) establish the manner in which an individual may dispose of his or her assets and property after death. These rules apply for French residents and, to a certain degree, to non-residents who own properties in France. The focus point of the French Inheritance Law are the children who are seen as the natural and protected heirs to the property and assets of their parents. Surviving spouses may not benefit from the same inheritance rights as children, unless the individual takes measures to ensure the manner in which the assets are distributed. Our attorneys in France can help you with an evaluation of the default distribution of your assets according to French law. We can also help you prepare a will in which you can state directions as per the division of assets.
 

French Inheritance Law

 
Under French Inheritance Law, part of an individual’s property can be reserved to the descendants and part can be freely distributed. This applies in case of real estate  properties where children are entitled to most of the property previously owned by a French citizen. Because children are viewed as the natural heirs of property, in families with one child, he/she will receive half of the property. In the case of two children, the legal part of the property they are entitled to is 2/3, and for three children ¾ of the estate. The surviving spouse can receive ¼ of the estate. The remaining part of the property can be freely disposable (for example, also to the spouse or one of the children, if applicable).  Here is an infographic that explains more:
 
The main provisions of the Inheritance Law in France (1).png
 

Inheritance planning in France

 
Any increase in the legal rights of one or more parties regarding inheritance can be done with prior inheritance planning. If there are no children, according to the French Inheritance Law, the rights to inherit property owned by a deceased are distributed among the surviving relatives: father or mother and brother or sister.
 
Non-residents in France are also subject to the distribution rules for property. A default rule that usually applies in this case is that the property, either movable or immovable, is distributed according to the laws of the country of residence of the individual who owned a property in France. The terms of the distribution can also be stated in a will.
 

Are there any inheritance law restrictions?

 
According to the Inheritance Law in France, regardless of the will specifications, a particular share of the deceased’s estate, which is also known as the reserve, needs to be kept for the children, or for the spouse in the case there are no children. Hereafter, the rest of the assets or properties will be allocated in accordance with the will. On the other hand, children can leave the right to a French inheritance, but such rights cannot be revoked after the death of a parent or parents. We remind that a child can receive 50% of the assets, and two children will have to share 66.6% of the estate.
 

What are the rights of a spouse according to the French Inheritance Law?

 
The Inheritance Law in France clearly states that only married couples will be subject to asset distribution after a partner’s death. In the case of civil unions or unmarried couples, the surviving spouse will not have the right to receive the assets or properties acquired during the relationship. However, a recent law modification states that survivors who were part of a civil partnership can live in the family home for up to one year. If you would like to know more about the Inheritance Law in France, you should address your inquiries to one of our French lawyers. Our team can also help you start a business in France.
 

What happens if there is no will?

 
In the case there is no written will, the rules of inheritance will apply, meaning that all the assets and properties will be distributed in respect with the provisions of the Inheritance Law in France, details that were mentioned above. The surviving children and the spouse will share the assets, mentioning that the latter one will receive 25% of the common goods and properties.
 

Short details about succession in France

 
According to the Inheritance Law in France, if the children died and if the grandchildren are the survivors, they will benefit from the same rights as the parents. In the case there are no children, grandchildren or spouse, the line of succession starts with the parents, and continue with the siblings, nephews, nieces, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, etc. Feel free to talk to our advisors and find out more about the succession in France. We can provide you with complete legal support, as such topics might get complex.
 

Inheritance tax in France

 
The French Inheritance Law mentions that no debts should be linked to a property, including mortgage repayments if a child under 18 years of age receives property in France. On the other hand, there is no inheritance tax for properties worth up to EUR 100,000 and gained by the parents, children, or grandchildren. It is important to know that persons who inherited a property from a deceased parent or relative will have to register for tax purposes within 6 months. In the case of foreigners living in France, they can decide if they want for the Inheritance Law of the country of origin to apply instead of the French one, by making a declaration in this matter. You should talk to our French advisors and find out more about your rights in France if you received a property or other assets after the death of a family member.
 

Inheritance for couples with no children

 
The surviving spouse from a marriage with no children will inherit all the assets and properties. However, things change in the case the parents live, as they can receive ¼ of the assets. Though, the parents have no engrained rights of legacy, meaning that all the assets and properties can be received entirely by the surviving spouse, if a French marriage contract, gift, or will is made. Our French lawyers can provide immediate legal support for those who want to understand a will. The same thing is available for persons interested in making a deed in France and to understand the distribution of assets and properties at a certain point.
 

A short analysis of the French property market

 
The evolution of the real estate sector in France is quite notable for the past, according to the latest statistics on the market. Here are some facts and figures provided by the notaires.fr:
 
  • there were about 1,063,000 completed transactions by the end of October 2019;
  • 3.3% of the annual real estate transactions in France represent property ownership;
  • a decrease of about 20% in property sale offers was registered by the end of October 2019 in France;
  • more than 21,000 new properties were offered for sale on the market, during Q3 of 2019.
 
Besides support and legal guidance for inheritance in France, foreigners can also ask for legal advice for property purchase in France.
 

FAQ about French Inheritance Law

 
1. Who is entitled to inherit the assets in the case of a deceased family member?
According to the French Inheritance Law, the children are first in line for property inheritance. This means that if one child is the natural heir in the family, he or she will receive half of the assets, whether stipulated in a will or not. In the case of two children, they will inherit 2/3 of the properties.
 
2. How much of the assets are inherited by the spouse in the case of a deceased in the family?
The same French Inheritance Law mentions that a spouse receives ¼ of the total assets. We remind you that our French lawyers can tell you more about the inheritance tax in France and the legislation referring to testaments and rights of family members.
 
3. What are the family rights in the case there are no children to inherit the assets?
Properties can be inherited by other family members in the case there are no children. This means that a brother, a sister, the mother, or the father can receive the assets left in the family.
 
4. Can foreigners in France inherit family assets in France?
Yes, there is no restriction regarding the family assets inheritance for foreigners. The same French Inheritance Law applies in the case of non-residents in France. You can discuss more on this topic with our attorneys in France.
 
5. How are inheritance rights applied to unmarried couples in France?
Unmarried couples and civil unions are not subject to inheritance rights in France. This means that the assets acquired during a relationship of an unmarried couple cannot be received by the surviving partner.
 
6. What happens with the assets of a deceased family member if there is no will?
Because there is no obligation of having a will with information about the distribution of assets, the provisions of the French Inheritance Law apply. In other words, all the assets and properties are distributed in the family.
 
7. Is there an inheritance tax in France?
One should note that there is no inheritance tax in France, imposed for properties worth below EUR 100,000 if received in the family by children, grandchildren, or parents. However, an inheritance tax of 45% applies to properties worth more than EUR 1 million and received by parents, children, and grandchildren, whether stipulated in a will or not.
 
8. What type of rules apply for minors under 18 in the case of property inheritance in France?
The French Inheritance Law stipulates that properties received by a minor after a deceased family member should not be subject to any kind of debts, including mortgages. Additional details about the inheritance rights for minors in France can be offered by our French lawyers.
 
9. Can I solicit support for making a will in France?
Yes, you can benefit from complete legal counseling when making a will in France. We have a team of specialists who can explain the general rules about inheritance in France.
 
10. Are properties stipulated in a French marriage contract subject to inheritance?
Yes, if there is no will, but a French marriage contract with details about personal assets and their distribution in the family, such document is legal and can be discussed in front of family members and a legal representative.
 

Children and inheritance in France without surviving spouse

 
The French Inheritance Law clearly stipulates that if there is no surviving spouse in the family, the children will receive all the assets. This rule applies even in the absence of a testament so that inheritors benefit from the entire assets, including grandchildren if it is the case.
 

Is it necessary to consider inheritance planning in France?

 
Even though there is no obligation to make a will, it is recommended to have in mind inheritance planning and protect the family assets if you live in France. The legislation mentions that the assets will be distributed in the family if there is no testament left. However, better protection is offered by inheritance planning that can be created with the help of our French lawyers.
 

Working with our French lawyers

 
The experience of our attorneys in France reflects on the successful cases we managed from the beginning. Foreign entrepreneurs can benefit from full support, confidence, and reliability when it comes to business formation, tax compliance, business management, and many more. Our clients interested in the general rules regarding the French Inheritance Law can benefit from complete legal services and guidance when collaborating with us.
 
 
Our lawyers in France can help you with more information about living in the country and the legal provisions for individuals. You can contact our law firm in France for more details and legal advice.