Where the deceased was resident in France all worldwide assets are taxed in France.
The deceased will be considered to have been ‘resident’ if any of the following conditions applied:
If it is considered the deceased had their main home in France;
If the deceased carried on a professional activity in France;
If the deceased had their centre of ‘economic interests’ in France;
If the deceased spent more than 183 days a year in France then will be deemed to be have been resident.
Where the deceased was not resident for tax purposes the scope of the tax depends on whether or not the beneficiary is considered to have been resident for tax purposes in France at the time of death.
A beneficiary is considered domiciled fiscally in France if they are resident in France and have been resident for at least six years out of the last ten years preceding the death.
All worldwide assets of the deceased are then liable to inheritance tax in France, although this liability is reduced by the extent to which there is a double taxation treaty in operation between France and the country of domicile.
Where the beneficiary is considered to live fiscally outside of France, then only those assets located in France come within the purview of French inheritance tax.
In France, a person's children are considered reserved heirs (héritiers réservataires).
Reserved and unreserved
Reserved heirs inherit a portion of their deceased parent's estate. This is the reserved portion (reserve légale). Exactly what the reserved portion is depends on the number of children. For example, for someone with three children, 75 percent of the estate must be left to those heirs in equal shares. The remaining 25 percent is considered the unreserved portion (quotité disponible) and may be left to whomsoever the owner pleases.
The role of a will
A will cannot override the law of reserved heirs. On this basis the surviving spouse could end up "sharing" ownership of their home with the children of the deceased. However, it is possible to leave the surviving spouse the usufruit, or life interest of the estate, by including that in a will. This gives the surviving spouse considerable extra protection; difficulties may remain if the surviving spouse wishes to sell the property.