What property brokers do not inform you about proudly owning property in France (Half 1) | Dwelling in France

PUBLISHED: 16:27 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:55 13 February 2020

(c) c-George / Getty Images

(c) c-George / Getty Pictures


Within the first of a two-part sequence, Dan Harris, Head of Stone King solicitor’s Worldwide & Cross-Border division, who’s a French specialist, critiques a few of the key French tax and French succession conflicts of regulation

The American author Mencken as soon as stated: ‘For each advanced downside there’s a resolution that’s clear, neat and incorrect’. He might have stated this in relation to Anglo-French wills and estate planning as a result of most shoppers inform me in preliminary planning discussions that their state of affairs is ‘very easy’, confirming to me that they’ve little concept of the complexity concerned.

In lots of instances shoppers have been reassured by brokers or have assumed that someway UK regulation (being the legal guidelines of England & Wales, Scotland or Northern Eire) will prevail over their French property, however the reality is that as quickly as you personal property in one other jurisdiction, whether or not it is actual property, investments or only a checking account, your planning stops being easy.

In case you cease and suppose for a second, coping with a UK property administration after you die is seldom easy and little or nothing that’s completed within the UK property administration will assist along with your French property. As an alternative, the switch of the French property into the identify/s of the beneficiaries requires a separate French administration, and two administrations means, if nothing else, two units of charges – so doubtlessly double the associated fee.

Given correct recommendation by suitably certified attorneys, the problems that come up aren’t insurmountable, however to fail to handle them correctly is to court docket monetary and/or succession catastrophe, which we see on a regular basis.

French tax law must be considered in cross-border estate planning (c) Zerbor / Getty ImagesFrench tax regulation should be thought of in cross-border property planning (c) Zerbor / Getty Pictures

Even extremely certified and skilled ‘native’ attorneys make errors when coping with cross-border planning and administration and it’s because their recommendation solely considers the legal guidelines in their very own nation.

Furthermore, in addition to desirous about the legal guidelines in France and the UK, there are the ‘cross-border’ points to contemplate. These are the place the 2 units of legal guidelines don’t work collectively as a result of they’re incompatible. It’s in these circumstances the place native attorneys usually make errors and/or miss alternatives.


The potential conflicts of regulation embody which nation is ready to tax which property and – in conditions the place each jurisdictions wish to tax your property – which nation has precedence. Opposite to fashionable perception, it’s not sufficient that you’re ‘paying tax’ both within the UK or France, as a result of in case you have paid tax to the incorrect authority you’ll nonetheless be chargeable for penalties and curiosity.

It is important to make sure you are paying tax in the correct country (c) supawat bursuk / Getty ImagesIt is very important ensure you are paying tax within the appropriate nation (c) supawat bursuk / Getty Pictures

And, after all, the tax programs within the UK and France are utterly totally different. I like to inform my shoppers that we do not have inheritance tax within the UK and it’s because within the UK it’s not the heir (beneficiary) who pays the tax, however somewhat the property. In France it’s a ‘real’ inheritance tax as a result of the heir pays the tax they usually pay it at totally different charges, relying on how shut they’re to the deceased when it comes to bloodline. This will imply that kids of the deceased (relying on the dimensions of the property) will pay no tax, whereas step-children might be chargeable for tax as much as 60%. It additionally signifies that trusts can theoretically be taxed as a lot as 83%. Different cross-border issues embody ‘succession’ points (who will get what if you die) that are ruled by a mix of every nation’s home legal guidelines and their non-public worldwide regulation.

Within the UK, the non-public worldwide regulation makes a distinction between ‘immovable property’ (which is broadly buildings and land) and ‘movable property’, (which is broadly all the pieces else). The foundations governing who will get what of your immovable property is ruled by the nation by which the immovable property is located. As to your movable property, that is ruled by the principles governing your frequent regulation domicile.

The issue is that, once more opposite to city fantasy, your frequent regulation domicile is just not the place you reside, or the place you had been born or your nationality. As an alternative, it’s a much more advanced idea. An in depth rationalization is past the scope of this text, however I’ll define the fundamentals.


Do you know where you are officially domiciled (c) adisa / Getty ImagesHave you learnt the place you might be formally domiciled (c) adisa / Getty Pictures

Every of us has a ‘domicile of origin’, which is the place your father (or if not mom), believed his actual or everlasting dwelling was on the date of your beginning. You’ll be able to displace your domicile of origin with a ‘domicile of selection’ should you move a two-part take a look at. First, it’s important to transfer to a unique jurisdiction, and second, with the intention of remaining there completely.

The issue is that intention is not measured by what you say and even what you suppose, it’s decided by what you ‘do’. The whole lot you will have completed (as much as the date of your loss of life) is taken into consideration, starting from the plain components akin to how lengthy you will have been in a selected jurisdiction and the place your property are located, to much less apparent standards, akin to: the place you intend to be buried, the place your kids are educated, what golf equipment you belong to, whether or not you will have discovered the native language, obtained voting rights and so forth.

The regulation says that domicile is ‘sturdy’ and so proof of a change of domicile must be very sturdy.

Alongside frequent regulation domicile sits tax domicile, often known as ‘deemed domicile’. These are a algorithm that catch folks within the tax web who would in any other case escape it. For folks leaving the UK, which means even in case you have left the nation and brought all the pieces with you, you might be nonetheless thought of to be domiciled within the UK for 4 years after you will have left.

The French would not have the identical advanced definition of domicile. As an alternative, to them domicile is actually your routine residence. Clearly the distinction in guidelines between the 2 jurisdictions results in conflicts of regulation, and your cross-border lawyer ought to have the ability to clarify each the authorized and pragmatic methods to resolve the conflicts.

Subsequent month Dan Harris completes his two-part sequence by taking a look at how French non-public worldwide regulation and EU Succession Regulation 650/2012 (Brussels IV) work along side UK regulation.

Dan Harris – Head Worldwide & Cross-Border Stone King LLP worldwide@stoneking.co.uk +44 (0) 1225 337599

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