Hi Emily- as you say that your step dughter is pleasant and you can't imagine what might happen if your husband passed away - I'd like to share what is happening to me at this moment.
I raised my husband's son, Vincent. He was 9 when I met him, his mother had been living in Martinique since he was 3 yrs old. She passed away when he was 20 of a drug overdose.
I treated him like a son, married his father under la loi de 'la communauté" and had 2 wonderful children and a great life. I have always worked in addition to raising our children. After 31 years, my husband unexpectedly passed away Dec 21,2010 of a heart attack.
I have now learned that the house I renovated with my husband, in which his son never lived, is only partially mine. Every 10 years my Us & Fruits decreases by 10%. So the day my children will need to sell to pay for my hospice, Vincent will walk away with a pocket full of money and my children will spend their inheritance taking care of my old age needs.
I need to add that Vincent drove the family business into bankruptcy making us lose all our savings. He connived his father for 41 years and today has the same 'rights' as our two children of 23 & 24 who never had the slightest financial boost from their father and me. They are still living at home whereas Vincent, who has always spent more than he earned, has always come begging for money, and my husband helpd him out...non-stop.
So what would I have liked to have known before marrying and being a French resident? That no matter how much you work, the surviving spouse is considerd as someone who has depleted the children's inheritance. That I should have recorded every penny we ever gave to Vincent, but out of not wanting to rock the boat - we gave, and gave.
I will fight this in court and spend all that I have to find justice. I am also looking for people who have experienced the Code Napoléon so they can join me as we file an investigation on how this code is not aligned with the 'familles recomposés' of today and that the notaries are not all as honest as one would assume them to be!
If you know of anyone having gone through what I am going through or wanting to influence a change in this absurd law, pls pass on my email: email@example.com