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Cross-Border probates involving French inheritance law : the new French law dated August 24th 2021

Updated: May 16, 2022

Cross-Border probates involving French inheritance law : the new French law increasing the protection provided by the forced heirship rule.

For those not familiar with French inheritance laws, it is important to be aware of the existence of the forced heirship rule provided by articles 912 and following of the French Civil Code. According to this rule some heirs, namely the deceased’s children and in some cases the surviving spouse, are protected by law, and cannot be deprived of their rights in the estate of the deceased, except in extreme circumstances.

Nowadays, in a world where people tend to hold assets in various jurisdictions, the rule of forced heirship makes the job of estate planners increasingly challenging.

There has been debates in France about maintaining this rule, and in 2017, the French Supreme Court went as far as ruling for the first time[1], that a foreign law could exclude protected heirs from their inheritance.

However, a new law, adopted by the French Parliament on August 24th 2021[2], when most of French nationals were still enjoying their summer holidays, came into force on November 1st 2021, amending articles 913 and 921 of the French Civil code.

This new law provides for an increased protection of the rights of protected heirs in situations where the deceased or one of his/her heirs, are either from a member state of the European Union or an habitual resident of a member state of the European Union.

The new version of article 913 of the French Civil code, is of particular interest to those assisting French Clients, since it provides the possibility for protected heirs, who were prevented from inheriting due to the application of a foreign law, which does not recognize the French rule of forced heirship, to recover the share to which they are entitled under French Law, on the assets situated in France at the time of death.

This new French law must not be overlooked, whether when executing a will or dealing with Probate, since it could well bring some upheaval in certain cases!

For any question relating to this new law or French inheritance law in general, please do not hesitate to contact me.

[1] Cass. 1ere civ. 27 sept. 2017 [2] Loi no. 2021-1109 du 24 aout 2021 confortant les principes de la Republique


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