Inheriting a property in France can be a complex process

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An Irish father of Irish descent wants to donate a French property worth € 250,000 to his daughter, who also lives in Ireland. His will is subject to Irish law. Is there inheritance tax payable in Ireland or France (she receives nothing else)?

And if so, is it possible to make a donation while alive – he is 80 years old – and avoid such a tax?

Mr. HJ, email

Your request raises two questions which have always been very delicate: property in France and inheritance in France. The good news is, they’ve gotten a little less complicated in recent years. But you still need to make sure that you have all of the dotted and crossed legal niceties.

The issue of ownership is common to many countries – they retain taxing rights over property physically located in that jurisdiction. We will come back to this later.

The second problem concerns French inheritance laws and inheritance / gift tax structures. It can be a minefield and it is wise to make sure, in advance, that the measures you put in place will be acceptable under French law.

This will usually involve consulting a French notary – a lawyer who is also a public official appointed by the French Ministry of Justice to ensure that everything is done legally and registered correctly. It is advisable to speak to someone who is familiar with international heritage issues – not all of them – and preferably someone with whom you can converse in English. This may well involve consulting a larger practice. The Australian Embassy in France has a useful list on its website (https://france.embassy.gov.au/pari/lawyers.html)

Key changes

There have been some major developments in inheritance management, both in France and more broadly in Europe over the past five years.

Traditionally, in France, you are circumscribed to whom you leave your property. In particular, children have special rights as “protected heirs” and cannot simply be disinherited.

However, as of 2015 new EU laws state that you can decide to have your will managed under the inheritance laws of your country of nationality – or any of them where you hold. multiple nationalities – not in the last country of residence or the country where the assets are located. This is the case even when the chosen country of nationality is a country outside the EU.

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