Navigating French Inheritance Laws: Key Considerations for American Expats Owning Property in France

American Expats Owning Property in France

Key Considerations for American Expats Owning Property in France:

Owning property in France as an American expat comes with unique financial considerations, particularly concerning inheritance laws. Understanding the intricacies of French inheritance laws is crucial to ensure your property is properly managed and passed on to your heirs according to your wishes. This article aims to provide key insights into French inheritance laws that American expats owning property in France should be aware of.  

Forced Heirship Principle

France operates under the principle of forced heirship, which means that a portion of your estate is reserved for your immediate family members, known as “reserved heirs.” This includes your children and, in some cases, your spouse. Understanding this principle is essential to avoid unintended consequences in your estate planning. 

Protecting the Rights of Reserved Heirs 

French law aims to protect the rights of reserved heirs by ensuring they receive their designated share of the estate. As an American expat, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding reserved heirs to ensure your estate plan aligns with these provisions and to avoid potential conflicts or challenges in the future. 

Making a French Will 

To ensure that your property in France is distributed according to your wishes, it is advisable to have a French will. A French will allows you to designate beneficiaries, specify how your property should be distributed, and even deviate from the forced heirship rules to some extent. Consulting with a French notary or an attorney experienced in French estate law is highly recommended when drafting a French will. 

Electing the Law of Your Home Country 

If you prefer to have the succession laws of your home country applied to your French property, you have the option to elect the law of your home country as the governing law for your estate. This choice should be made carefully, taking into account the potential advantages and disadvantages based on your specific situation and the laws of your home country. 

Community Property Considerations 

If you are married and own property in France, it’s important to understand the implications of community property laws. France is a community property country, and if you acquired property while married, it may be considered community property, even if you are not a French citizen. Understanding how community property laws interact with inheritance laws is crucial for effective estate planning. 

Seeking Professional Guidance 

Given the complexities of French inheritance laws, seeking professional guidance is highly recommended. Consult with a French notary or an attorney experienced in French estate law to ensure your estate plan aligns with both French and U.S. laws. They can help you navigate the intricacies of French inheritance laws and tailor your estate plan to your specific circumstances. 

Reviewing Existing Estate Planning Documents 

If you have existing estate planning documents, such as wills or trusts, it’s important to review them in light of your ownership of property in France. Ensure that these documents address your French property and are consistent with French inheritance laws. If necessary, consult with an attorney to update or modify your estate planning documents accordingly. 


Owning property in France as an American expat requires careful consideration of legal, tax, and financial planning factors. By understanding the local real estate market, engaging property management services, managing currency exchange, and ensuring compliance with local laws, you can successfully navigate property ownership in France. Consulting with financial professionals who specialize in international property ownership and cross-border financial advice will provide you with the necessary guidance to protect and optimize your investment.  


This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, it is subject to change, and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions. 


Planning Your Finances Doesn't Need to be Stressful

Most expats want to know their financial future is secure. For the past 20 years we’ve been using our Expat Wealth Plan™ to make your money work for you, so you can enjoy your future whatever it holds.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top