Married UK expats: How to avoid inheritance disasters in France

Mar 23, 2021

If you’re British, married, living in France and want to have control over what your other half will inherit, legally it is more important to have a “Donation au Dernier Vivant” than a will. Daniel Butcher of DTB Wealth Management explains why…

British married couples in France must ensure they make the correct legal moves under French law so that in the event of a death the remaining spouse inherits the desired assets.

When British married couples move to France, many do not realise that French law will view the couple’s assets separately, which includes property.

“French couples are systematically married into a ‘communauté’, where a communal pot is created that has its own law and protects the ‘married couple’s assets’, but this is not the case for English expat couples,” said Daniel Butcher, founder of DTB Wealth Management. “French notaires will apply the ‘séparation de bien’ regime instead, where everything acquired during a marriage is divided in two.”

Under French Family law the main inheritors are the children and not the remaining spouse. “The blood line overrides marital affiliation, and this means that the remaining spouse could find themselves sharing property rights with, or having to give half of their savings to, the children,” said Daniel. “The worst-case scenario would be for re-married couples who are only allowed to leave each another one-quarter of their respective half.”

To avoid any inheritance disasters, British married couples in France must take out a “Donation au Dernier Vivant” with a “notaire” to protect the remaining spouse. This will allow an increase or adjustment which meets the couple’s inheritance wishes more closely.

“It is absolutely essential that married couples do a ‘Donation au Dernier Vivant’ as soon as possible, it is far more beneficial than writing a will,” said Daniel, who was born in the UK, but has lived in France for 40 years.

As the company is a CGP, a Conseil en Gestion de Patrimoine (a company qualified in insurance, banking, finance and notarial law), it is able to offer expats the best advice, as well as a bilingual service.

“At DTB Wealth Management we know the UK and French financial systems inside out, so not only can we advise our clients on the most advantageous way to set up their ‘Donation au Dernier Vivant’, but we can also provide the notaire as part of our service,” he said. “Combining it with an ‘Assurance Vie’ can often bring further financial benefits, too.”

The company is referenced by both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK and the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) in France and therefore is uniquely well placed to create the most lucrative outcomes for its clients.

“We can organise the best inheritance arrangements for married expats,” said Daniel. “Our initial consultation is free because we are passionate about helping clients to create the best future for themselves in France.”

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