Question from the reader: My wife died without leaving a French will, but I believe that we entered into a in tontine clause in our French property purchase about 16 years ago. I am a UK resident. However, I would like the succession of assets to be treated according to the usual French inheritance law, and the in tontine clause (if any) to be ignored so that my two sons inherit jointly with me. Is this possible and what would be the cost?
The inclusion of a tontine clause means that the property must pass outside the usual succession process. A tontine The clause presumes that the first to die of two co-owners of a property is deemed never to have had an interest in it, and the survivor is treated as one owner from the outset.
If there is one tontine clause, it cannot be ignored. The property would pass to you, regardless of any wills your wife may have had.
It is possible to dissolve a tontine clause, but only with the express agreement of both parties – so long as they are alive and of full capacity. It would be prudent to have a lawyer knowledgeable in French law inspect the title documentation to establish whether the property has been purchased. in tontine.
Otherwise, it is possible that part of your late wife’s share will be passed on to your children.
Read more: Estate planning in France and how to benefit your family
In this situation, it would still be important to understand if she has prepared a will. You mentioned that she did not have a will in French, but an English will could still come into play. If there is no will, the application of intestate rules will have to be considered. .
Even though there is a tontine clause, it should be possible to restructure the property to include the two boys (for tax purposes it will be important that they are your natural children, rather than stepchildren). When asking the notary to update the title, you could offer some to your sons. Consider the various tax and financial implications that could arise – even in the UK if you are a UK tax resident. Expert advice should be sought.
Find help navigating life in France with our new Reader Questions newsletter
Sign up to receive our selection of Readers’ Questions of the Week answered by The Connection team – delivered to your inbox every Saturday.
See what other readers like you are asking, including: How often is a rabies vaccine for dogs required for France-UK travel? Can foreign residents benefit from the French pension supplement? and more.
How does it work when you have a will in the UK and in France?