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The existence of an inheritance

Home > International Estate | Published 2010-12-30

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To inherit assets from an estate, an individual must be approved and legally accepted as heir; meaning not all individuals are automatically accorded the right to inherit assets and properties from the deceased. The determination as to which individuals will inherit what from an estate derives from a specific determination of the familial structure: for instance, there is no inheritance between civil partnerships or partners. The family estate is much more complicated than the simple examination of a family tree.

Firstly, it is important to distinguish the difference between kinship and alliance. Only kinship relationships imply inheritance. Among allies there must be a supporting obligation and formal statement made by both parties in order to proceed with any matters of inheritance.

Before 2001, the legal principle explaining the processes of estate management was contained in former section 755 of the Civil Code: in the event of a direct familial connection, there was no limit to the inheritance. In a less direct connection between the family members, a sixth cousin is usually the limit of familial consideration. There was an inclusion in the law of the brothers and sisters of the deceased which therein possess no limit to their inheritance.

A second limitation relates to the collateral through the twelfth degree relationship in the event of a minor less than 16 years of age, who must declare an inability to be examined as a candidate. Indeed, it is possible for an individual beyond the sixth degree to benefit, but only through an established living will and testament. In any event, an individual under the age of 16 and beyond the sixth degree of familial relations cannot benefit from an estate as the legitimacy of claims cannot be tested.

The 2001 law was abolished in article 745 of the Civil Code. The new law offers the following exceptions: the collateral does not exceed a family member of the sixth degree, even if they are privileged collaterals. The family structure has therefore been narrowed in definition.

Spousal inheritance has been increasingly recognized. The Act passed on June 23, 2006 has improved the rights of the surviving partner in housing, since they now have the right, in the event of the death of his or her partner, to stay in the accommodation belonging to their partner before death. The surviving spouse is also entitled, for economic reasons, to seek preferential allocation of some goods (such as a company for example).

From a tax perspective, the TEPA Act of August 21, 2007 also includes a number of measures to allow the surviving spouse to inherit some assets along with the PACS partner, provided that there was an official last will and testament formalized before death. (Article 790 O of the CGI).

In the case of divorce or separation, the 2006 Act provides in section 732 of the new Civil Code that the current spouse is the successor, not the divorced spouse. If a separation or divorce is still pending with the decedent’s spouse, the spouse remains the successor. Only a finalized divorce settlement terminates an inheritance.

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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