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Succession issues for properties purchased in France by UK or Irish citizens

Many UK or Irish citizens who have purchased a property in France are concerned about the future of their property after their death.

Indeed inheritance rules differ substantially.

Each situation is different and would have to be analysed individually, but here are some general consideration for an Irish married couple, residing In Ireland with children.

The general rule is: any real property owned in France will be governed by the French law of succession.

To avoid this it has been common practice for owners not residing in France to purchase property through a company (SCI ie: SOCIETE CIVILE IMMOBILIERE) because shares of a company are not considered as real estate so they can, under certain conditions, be ruled under Irish law.

The problem with this option is that the management of an SCI can be demanding (accountancy costs, tax declaration, no consumer law protection).

Another option is just to apply French law.

The disadvantage is that French law allows less freedom for individuals to decide what will become of their assets after death. For instance it is not possible for parents to pass a will to advantage unreasonably one child rather than another.

On the other hand, the law is protective of heirs, since it is generally not possible for children or spouses of deceased to dispose of property without the consent of all the other heirs.

Whatever option you chose, it will not dispense you from paying French taxes on inheritance.

The rules applicable vary depending on many factors notably: number of children, existence of a prenuptial agreement in Ireland, children from a first marriage etc…

Each case being different, I would advise owners to contact me directly to discuss their situation before eventually referring them to a NOTAIRE who could draft a will if it is relevant.

Some of you may have come across EU Regulation 650/2012 on « jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession » this was adopted by EU on 04 July 2012.

This Regulation will simplify rules of succession in the EU although UK Ireland and Denmark have opted out of it…