Friday, 11 February 2011 3:49 PM
Q: “I recently retired and want to buy a holiday home in France. I have two grown-up children from a previous marriage, and am now married again with one step-child. I understand the inheritance laws surrounding property are different in France to those in the UK. In the event of my death, I would like the property to be left to my two biological children and current wife, each with equal shares – is that possible and do I need to make special arrangements for this?”
A: "This is relatively simple to arrange. The law in France almost does it for you – almost but not quite.
"Biological or adopted children are protected heirs. They cannot be disinherited. If you do not make a will in France, your two biological children will automatically inherit one third of your estate. By default, your current wife would also be entitled to at least a quarter, leaving the remaining twelfth up for grabs between them. Your step-child will not be involved unless you adopt him or her.
"Nevertheless it would be a good idea to make your intentions clear in a French will. Your children will inherit no matter what but you could explicitly allocate the last third to your wife. The notary handling your purchase could draft the text for this document.
"To avoid igniting long-standing family feuds and for a will to be legal, your will must be written by hand by yourself. A number of French people have typed their will, creating a document which has no legal force.
"If you are buying jointly with your wife, then your estate only involves half the value of the house."
Answered by Martin Castellan, consultant at PureFrance.com. Pure France specialises in holiday rental homes in the Loire Valley, Dordogne, Provence and the Côte d’Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon.