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EU Succession Regulation 2015 - Probates of French property

This article is for general information only. French law is a highly specialised area and you should only act or refrain from acting after receiving full professional advice on the facts of your particular case. This article is for general information and does not constitute investment advice.

The EU Succession Regulation (EU 650/2012) applies to deaths in France after 17 August 2015. The EU Regulation provides that the law of the deceased’s last place of residence applies to his estate by default but the testator has the option to choose in his will the law of his nationality. Many English testators with French property have chosen English law to apply to their French estates.

The EU Regulation provides that the law chosen must apply to the entire estate including the way it is administered and the way property devolves on death. This has caused considerable confusion as in France on death property vests directly in the heirs. In England it vests in the executors if there is a will and in the administrators if there is not a will. These are often not the same people and so there is the potential in France for the wrong person to sell the deceased’s property.

The matter has recently been considered by the High Court in France (TGI) in one of the first deaths since the EU Regulation came into force. In this case an English testator who had lived in France for many years made a French will and chose English law to apply. The French High Court ruled that the English procedures need to be followed by the French Court. The French Court accordingly made an order of a Grant of Probate in a French style vesting the property in the executor named in the will giving him the power to sell the French property.

Care needs to be taken when dealing with such probates. English grant of probate will not be acceptable and a French grant of probate needs to be obtained otherwise you will not be able to sell the deceased’s French property. In all cases an order of the French court should be obtained, which is the same as in England, a grant of probate in England being an order of the High Court usually obtained without a hearing.

May 2016

David Anderson