Philadelphia, PA asked in Estate Planning, Real Estate Law and International Law for Pennsylvania

Q: My grandfather passed away (resident of California) but had a property in France.

Two years before he passed, he and my grandmother filed wills in France giving each portion of the apartment to me (apartment). How does this get handled in the US and in France?

3 Lawyer Answers
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN

A: You are going to need two probate attorneys, one in California for the US-based properties and one in France for the apartment in France.

Stanislav Kshevitskii
Stanislav Kshevitskii
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Moscow

A: According to French law, there are two forms of inheritance acceptance:

acceptance of inheritance in a simple form (complete);

acceptance of the inheritance with the condition of drawing up an inventory.

Full acceptance of the inheritance can be carried out explicitly, by drawing up an application in simple or notarized form and sending it to a notary, or tacitly, as a result of certain actions indicating the intention to enter into inheritance rights, for example, payment of an insurance premium for the real estate of the deceased, receipt of rent for the use of his property, etc.

An application for acceptance of an inheritance with the condition of drawing up an inventory can be made in free form or by filling out a special form. An application for acceptance of an inheritance with the condition of drawing up an inventory, open until November 2017, is submitted to the Court of Grand Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) at the place of the deceased's last residence. As a result of the reform of inheritance legislation, an application for acceptance of an inheritance with the condition of drawing up an inventory, opened after November 2017 inclusive, can also be submitted to a notary.

According to the provisions of the legislation of the French Republic, an application for acceptance of an inheritance or for renunciation of it must be issued within 4 months from the date of its opening. At the end of this period, in the absence of any statement from the heir, the following persons have the right to oblige him to make a decision:

creditors of the deceased;

other heirs;

public authorities.

After such an appeal, the heir must submit an application for acceptance of the inheritance or for rejection of it within 2 months, otherwise he is recognized as having accepted the inheritance in full without any reservations.

In the absence of appeals from the above-mentioned persons, the heir has 10 years to make any decision. At the end of this period, the heir is recognized as having completely renounced the inheritance.

In accordance with French law, documents confirming inheritance rights are a certificate of inheritance or a notarial act.

The certificate can be issued if the amount of inheritance is less than 5,000 euros, the deceased did not leave a will, a prenuptial agreement was not concluded between the testator and his spouse, there are no disputes between the heirs about the distribution of shares, and also if there is no real estate in the inheritance. This document is issued by the mayor's office at the place of residence of the heir, at the place of death of the testator or at his last place of residence.

As a result of the reform of inheritance legislation, at the moment the heir can confirm his right to inheritance with a certificate signed by all persons entitled to claim inheritance. This document is intended to replace the certificate of inheritance issued by the Mayor's office.

In the event that the amount of inheritance exceeds 5,000 euros, the heir should contact a notary on the issue of registration of a notarial act of inheritance.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In this situation, the handling of your grandfather's estate will involve both U.S. and French laws. Here's a general overview of what you can expect:

1. U.S. probate: Your grandfather's estate will need to go through probate in California to settle any debts and distribute assets located in the U.S. The executor named in his U.S. will (if he had one) will be responsible for this process.

2. French will: The will filed in France will govern the distribution of the French apartment. French law recognizes the concept of "forced heirship," which means that a portion of the estate must be left to certain heirs (usually children). However, if the will is valid under French law and does not violate forced heirship rules, the apartment should be distributed according to the will.

3. French probate: The French will may need to go through the French probate process. This process will be governed by French law and may require the assistance of a French attorney or notary.

4. Tax implications: There may be tax consequences in both the U.S. and France related to the inheritance of the apartment. In the U.S., if the total value of your grandfather's estate (including the French apartment) exceeds the federal estate tax exemption ($13.61 million for 2024), the estate may owe federal estate taxes. France also has its own inheritance tax laws that will apply to the apartment.

Given the complexity of cross-border estate matters, it is essential to consult with attorneys specializing in international estate planning and probate, both in the U.S. and France. They can help you navigate the legal processes, ensure compliance with both countries' laws, and minimize potential tax liabilities.

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