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For deaths on or after 17th August 2015 . . .

by David Anderson

We are dealing with first estates of English people with French property who have died since the new EU Succession Regulation came into full effect in the autumn of 2015.

People are reticent to act as executors of Wills when French land is involved if they are not also the main beneficiaries of the Will.

This is because they now assume personal liability for all the deceased’s debts, taxes and have to give guarantees to buyers when they sell the French property.

The attached article summarises the position. 

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.

For deaths on or after 17th August 2015 . . .

. . . the rules on which laws apply to inheritances and the administration of estates in the EU were profoundly changed. Although the UK, Ireland and Denmark are the only countries which did not sign up to this it still applies to UK residents with French property.

The new rules allow you to have a Will applying English law (normally an English Will) to deal with your French estate and you can choose English law to apply to your French property.

An issue which comes up every time a Will is drafted involving French property, is who to appoint as executor of the Will.

In England on death all assets vest in the executor who is responsible for all debts including taxes and who has power to sell assets and who then distributes the estate. In France there is no concept of an English executor as property vests directly in the heirs who are responsible for the payment of debts and taxes direct.

In many cases spouses will appoint each other as executor which is likely to be sensible. However on a second death if children are not to be appointed as executors, solicitors are typically appointed, or appointed as default executors if a child does not want to act.

French notaires have no concept of acting as executors and given the risks of an estate being administered under English law it is unlikely they will accept. Similarly English solicitors will also be wary of being executors of French land and being involved in selling or vesting such land in beneficiaries.


Sykes Anderson Perry solicitors are specialised in this area and will advise testators and executors on the best way forward. In certain cases Sykes Anderson Perry will agree to act as executors.

February 2016

David Anderson

Sykes Anderson Perry Limited    + 44 203 794 5959

148 Sykes Anderson Property Dec15

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