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How to prepare French assets after family death from another country?

Question

My British parents have lived in France since 1975 and my brother and I were born and brought up there. I live in the UK and he is in Canada. I have wondered what happens if either or both parents were to die. Can you advise on the practicalities of disposing of the house and other assets, considering we do not live in France and are not familiar with French law? I’m also wondering about house clearance or forwarding items to the UK or Canada.

Answer

First, there are professionals who can help, many of whom contribute to The Connexion.

When the time comes, solicitors with cross-border expertise can assist.

Think of asking if your parents have prepared wills and possibly powers of attorney to ensure their affairs could be managed if either was to become unable to deal with them on their own. They would need to deal with such legal steps, but it is sensible for you to raise it.

The most important legal procedure will be administering their estates – dealing with the succession. A notaire in France would need to oversee this procedure, ensuring your parents’ wishes on their assets, as in their wills, are correctly implemented.

If they have no wills, there are rules on who inherits what, but it is likely you two would be entitled to divide the estate equally.

Secondly, check their paperwork is in order so you can locate information such as property title documents, bank account details, life insurance papers and pensions. Such conversations can be challenging, but can avoid difficulties in the future.

When it comes to selling the house, a local estate agent should be able to help with clearing it. A buyer might want to buy furnishings, so do not be too quick to clear it all.

If moving items overseas, removals companies can assist, but check the costs as there may be duties and administrative procedures for anything leaving the EU.

This article was first published in response to a reader query in The Connexion - August 2021.

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