EU Ruling on Wills

Bit of sad subject, but,In the eu we can now nominate which countries law applies to our Will. I would like English law to be enacted. Has anyone heard of a case where this eu ruling has been successfully applied?

I believe a lot of Brits have arranged this with their notaires.

Just bear in mind that whilst opting for UK law if you live in France means that in theory you can leave your estate to whoever you like, in practice it doesn’t change French succession tax. So you could leave your house to a non-relative, for example, but that non-relative would have to pay inheritance tax of 60% of the value of the house.

Well I’m still alive, so no I can’t tell you for sure that this has worked. The Brussels IV thingy that the UK opted out of only came into force in 2015 I seem to recall (when we changed our wills) so it will only be people who have gone since then where their wills could follow this ruling.

However I have trust in the solicitor we used and he seemed pretty confident that it would work and we could leave our assets how we wanted rather than the napoleonic french way. If you plan on trusts then beware, the french tax inspectors view these with suspicion.

Of course as Anna has said, those people/charities who benefit from your death in whatever country will have to follow the french inheritance tax system which is punative!

The idea is to preserve the family inheritance… so the tax system is only punitive if stuff is left (to whoever) outside of the family. :relaxed::upside_down_face:


There is much to be gleaned from the Legal Advice section of the Forum…

In particular:

1 Like

Except that increasingly families have a much more complex structure, which doesn’t fit the 2 parents leaving everything to their own offspring model…

Hmmm. I’m no lawyer, and no doubt this is perfectly sensible advice in many/most cases. However when we did our (extensive) research and prepared our wills the conclusion of the legal advice we got is that we should absolutely not write a french will and just have our English will.

I only add this to make the point that everybody needs to check that the advice they take and the route they go down is specific to their own circumstances.

That, however, is still the model used by the country you have chosen to live in. You are free to leave your property to whoever you like but that has to be taken in consideration of the potential cost involved.

1 Like

Jane, Thats why I asked, has anyone experience, of the EU law actually having been implimented, in practice, important for some, who wish to leave what (small) assets we may have, to the person we wish to benifit.

Of course. I’m not denying that, and accept that’s what will happen. It is right that legal issues are slow to change. However for those of us with non-standard family structures it does feel punitive at present.

Hi J Jones,
If I assume rightly that you have a marriage* with children from other relationships , and want to deal fairly with all concerned , you need to be very cautious using an English will ; if you die in France it may well be accepted following Brussels IV , but it may do nothing to solve french IHT issues. Any assets which pass directly to step-children either at the first or second death are subject to 60% IHT.
We have a second marriage with my wife being step-mother to my 4 children , and after many years of research and adjustments following frequent changes in inheritance and tax laws , I have come to the conclusion that the only advantage to an English will is if you want to disinherit a child.
We have found that we can get the result we wish only by using french wills (in our case within a communauté universelle marriage) and french assurance vie plans.
The great advantage of both is the possibility to pass assets in usufruit for real estate and for liquid assets in quasi-usufruit. Under these arrangements , you can pass your estate in a life -interest which allows the step-parent , if they need, to spend money and cash investments, and which passes the assets at second death to the step-children without any IHT liability (any IHT having been paid at the death of the natural parent with the usual favorable allowances and rate), and which is recognised in France ,whereas an English life- interest is quite different and involves creating a life-interest trust , which like all trusts can cause problems with the french tax system .

  • if you are not married then AFAIK there is no really good solution available in France to deal fairly with both partner and children.
1 Like

What happens if you have no immediate family.When does inheritance tax not family? cousin second cousins kick in.

There’s a table here that shows the figures

There are 2 figures you need to check, one is the tax-free allowance for that degree of relationship and the other is the rate of tax for that relationship. So for instance sons and daughters get a generous tax free allowance from each parent and then a low rate of tax, non relatives get a tiny tax free allowance and then a high rate of tax.

We did similar researches, and yes there is an advantage to us in only having UK wills. But thanks for checking.

Can you share the advantage? It might help others.

Patrick has already done so in approximate terms, plus the point I raised before about trusts.

Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised if this could be contested by the child in French courts.

JJ , I was trying to make the point that English law wills are not necessarily the best where there are stepchildren . You can leave assets as you choose , but if you die french resident all your worldwide assets are subject to french TAX law . So assets simply left to a stepchild are taxed at 60%. This can be avoided by careful use of french law life-interest arrangements and french "assurance vie "contracts. Perhaps I didn’t explain clearly enough.

1 Like

No you were entirely clear, I understood what you were saying thanks. However, not wishing to get into details, our situation is more delicate than just stepchildren.

Hi JJ,
I have to say that without giving even an approximate idea of your special circumstances, your emphatic endorsement of English wills is not very helpful to those seeking enlightenment on this subject. Your point that everyone needs to check advice ,and that everyone has specific circumstances is a very good one , but having said that , you have given all the useful input that you seem prepared to do.

1 Like