Intestate in France

Help please, an elderly man living in France for 8 years has a terminally ill wife, not expected to survive the next few days. He speaks little French and cannot understand the advice he has been given. His wife is intestate, the house is owned jointly by the two of them. She has children by her first marriage, they had no children of the marriage.

He wants to know:

1) If dying intestate affects his share of the home and inheriting 50% of her share?

2) Can her children ask for their mother's share on her death?

3) Can he pay the children their inheritance, if any, when he sells and return to the UK?

Of course he will have to consult a lawyer to put the wheels in motion when the end comes (God Bless her) but it would be helpful to him and put his mind at rest a bit if he had an idea of the law now. I would be grateful for positive advice. Right now he is in Albi holding his wife's hand, as he has been for months, poor man.

Will do, Tracy.

Great info Debra with back up links - can we put this in the useful links bit?

joint ownership falls under 2 stools: en division which means that the half share will be inherited by the spouse's children, or en tontine, which means the 50% will go entirely to the surviving spouse. en tontine is something that is done only at the time of purchase. i assume there will be inheritance tax to pay by the step children on their mother's estate.

Find a reputable notaire who speaks english

Yes - you have to ask them to change their entitlement, you can't just tell them what you want.

In my experience it is not necessary to register with the Embassy. (Their charge of €200 is extortionate!) All the relevant people in the UK readily accept the French death certificate (and without a translation) and I received all the appropriate benefits.

Not entirely true- somebody who wishes to leave property or assets after death in France other than under the classic division under French law can write a letter of preference to those entitled to the assets requesting a different division. Under French law those entitled then have to agree after the death which may or may not be a problem. However after 2015 those born abroad in the EU (inc UK) may leave their estate according to their preferences under the law applying in their country of birth. I realise that may not assist in this case. BTW I highly recommend that any death is registered with the British Embassy but make sure that any death benefits are claimed as if you don't you may (as I was as Graham knows) suffer a reduction in benefit if not entire loss. I agree that ALL children of all marriages or all liaisons are equally entitled. I totally agree that appropriate advice needs to be taken, and the situation seems to change all the time.

Tell him to go to a notaire immediately. Has he got a tontine clause on his house? If he has the house is safe. The children have a 2/3 interest in goods and chattels if his wife has not got a French will.

The children (and the husband) will inherit a share of the wife's estate. There is no way of disinheriting the legitimate (OR illegitimate come to that) children. If the property is jointly owned, he would still have the major share. I doubt if he could be forced to sell & leave the property.

I agree 100% with the above posting. Unfortunately I lost my wife in June 2011 to that terrible disease cancer. One of the first things that we did when we arrived in France in December 2005 was to make out French wills especially as we both had children by previous marriages. Thank goodness that we did that as I now own 50% of the property and have a life´s interest in Josette´s 50%. However if I decide to sell Josette´s daughter will automatically be entitled to 50%. Unfortunately I have heard some right horror stories where expats had not made out wills under French law, thinking that they could rely on previous wills taken out under UK law which currently are not recognised in France, and their own children and those by previous marriages have made immediate claims. This man most certainly needs a good French Notaire immediately! One other point is that the surviving partner has to pay a transfer fee based on the valuation of the property to the French authorities concerning the 50% that he has a lifetime interest in.

The way I understand it, he would retain the right to live in the property, but only 'own' a percentage depending on his age - somewhere between 15 and 25 percent. The rest would be divided between the children from the previous marriage. I do not think a will could make a difference in France, where it is impossible to 'disinherit' children. The situation is supposed to change in 2015, when expats will have a choice to be treated under French (in this case) or their home country's laws. A French solicitor will be able to enlighten (but not about 2015 - "on ne nous a rien communique jusqu'a present..."

This Gentleman is in need of a good lawyer very quickly. If the Good Lady is of good mind maybe it's not to late to write a will out now. Get hold of a legal bod ASAP . For a lawyer try the British Consulate's office