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French Inheritance Planning

By Spectrum IFA
This article is published on: 9th September 2016

In May, I wrote about tax-efficient savings & investments in France, including Assurance Vie (AV), which is the most popular type of investment in France for medium to long-term savings. If you did not see the article, you can find it at

I had intended to return to discuss the benefits of AV for French inheritance planning, in the following month. But then we had the result of the Brexit vote and that caught my attention just a little more!

So now I am getting back to basics of what works for successful French inheritance planning for financial assets – regardless of whether the UK is in or out of the EU – and regardless of nationality. Without a doubt, this is the AV, as this is an excellent planning tool for protecting the survivor, providing you with freedom of choice about who you can leave your financial assets to, as well as mitigating the potential inheritance taxes for your beneficiaries.

In France, there are strict rules on succession and children are ‘protected heirs’, each being entitled to inherit a proportion of their parents’ estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is half; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

However, for a quirk of historical reasoning, the death benefits paid from an AV fall outside of your standard estate. Therefore, you can leave the proceeds of your AV to whoever you wish and so get around the French ‘forced’ succession rules. I know that there will be many out there who are saying that you can do this anyway now, as a result of the EU Succession Regulations. Well that’s true, but maybe it’s not quite as straightforward as one might think – or at least hoped!

The problem is that even though the EU Regulations have been in place for more than a year now, these have not been widely tested. Notaires and cross-border legal specialists are still trying to get to grips with how these Regulations actually work in practice. So I, like many other professionals, still hold the view that if there is a tried and tested ‘French way’ to achieve your objectives, then this should be used. Early articles that I wrote on this subject can be found at

The EU Succession Regulations do not change the potential French inheritances taxes that are payable, but an AV does. Whilst there are no French inheritance taxes between spouses and partners who have entered into a legal civil partnership (known as a PACS, in France), for other beneficiaries, the tax rate varies according to their relationship to you. For example, step-children (and other non-blood beneficiaries) are taxed at a punitive 60%!

For amounts invested in an AV before age 70, each beneficiary (whatever their relationship to you) is entitled to a tax-free allowance of €152,500. Taxation is limited to 20% on amounts paid above the allowance up to €700,000, and at 31.25% for amounts exceeding €700,000 per beneficiary). There is still no tax between spouses and PACSd partners, whatever amount is transmitted.

There is no limit to the number of beneficiaries that you can name. Hence, whatever your family situation, it is possible to pass on your capital to whoever you like, without them suffering excessive rates of French inheritance tax. Thus, the survivor can be fully protected and then the capital can subsequently pass to your other beneficiaries, following the death of the survivor.

For amounts invested after age 70, the inheritance allowance for all your beneficiaries combined is reduced to €30,500 (plus the investment return on the total amount invested). In effect, therefore, it is only the amount invested that exceeds €30,500 that would be taxed at standard French inheritance tax rates.

Sadly, social contributions are now charged on any gain in the policy paid out as a death benefit. Even so, when the above inheritance planning advantages are taken into account together with the personal tax savings, this makes the AV a very attractive proposition.

Inheritance planning is a highly specialised and complicated subject. Everyone’s family situation and level of wealth is different and it is very important to seek professional advice, so that the best course of action for you can be established.

The benefits of AV and tax-efficiency is a subject that we cover in our popular financial seminars across France – “Le Tour de Finance – Bringing Experts to Expats”. Overall, our industry experts will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

  • Financial Markets
  • Assurance Vie
  • Pensions/QROPS
  • French Tax Issues
  • Currency Exchange

The date for the local seminar is Friday, 7th October 2016 at the Domaine Gayda, 11300 Brugairolles. Places are limited and must be reserved, in advance. This venue is always very popular and with less than a month to go, the event is likely to soon be fully booked. Therefore, you should contact us as soon as possible if you would like to come to the seminar. I will be at the event with our other advisers in this area, Rob, Derek and Sue.

In practice, financial advice is needed more than ever in uncertain times. Doing nothing can often be an expensive mistake. Hence, if you are not able to attend the seminar and would anyway like to have a confidential discussion with one of our financial advisers, you can contact us by e-mail at or by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an advisor is available immediately for an initial discussion.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of the investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.

Article by Spectrum IFA

The Spectrum IFA Group is committed to providing a professional financial advice to the expat community in Europe. The Spectrum IFA Group operates in a number of jurisdictions with 12 offices in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal with over 50 advisers.

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