The importance of a little estate planning

Last will and testament

Benjamin Franklin said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes", and this most definitely applies if you own property - not just in France but in any country.

What is also certain is that if you do not make proper preparations for your death, then those that you leave behind could find themselves trying to sort many complications at a time that is already difficult for them having just lost you. You also risk allowing the state to take control out of the hands of your loved ones. It doesn't matter what age you are, or if you are in good health, you are not tempting fate by being sensible and discussing what is, quite frankly, an inevitable event at some point. A little planning now will save a lot of heartache later on.

Common misconceptions:

  • We are married, so my spouse will inherit everything when I die - WRONG.
  • I've made a Will so my wishes will be carried out - WRONG.

France has very restrictive rules governing to whom you can leave your estate and it is important you understand that any immovable property (e.g. house) you own in France currently falls under French law. These laws (dating back to Napoleonic times) are to protect the deceased's children who will automatically inherit their share upon a parent's death. It will not pass to the surviving spouse absolutely unless you have drawn up the purchase contract correctly, such as including a clause 'tontine'. Even if you have made a Will leaving everything to your spouse this will have no effect against French law. However, a new EU regulation which will come into force in the summer of 2015 will allow expats resident in France to write in a French Will that they want the law of their nationality to apply to their estate. Please note that this does not apply to a holiday home but there are other arrangements you can make to ensure your estate passes to those you want it to.

Whatever your wishes or personal situation, you should take legal advice as there are a number of options available and each case is different. A little thought now will save a mountain of trouble and stress later.

To make what could be a complicated matter easier, you may prefer to talk to a bilingual notary who is accustomed to working with expatriates and their particular issues. If so, then please contact us and we will give you their details.

Make it your New Year's resolution to get your house in order...