British couples can use a ‘notaire’ to change to a community regime. They may be able to use this so that assets pass to their spouse rather than children.
However since this would breach the forced heirship rules for children from a previous marriage, the stepchildren have the right to claim against this. If all is amicable within the family, though, stepchildren can renounce their right to their parent’s property until the second death.
Changing marriage regime will not automatically improve clients succession tax position. We have come across couples with children from previous marriages who changed regime to try and avoid the 60% succession tax stepchildren have to pay. But in fact the 60% tax continues to apply.
It could also mean children from a cleint’s current marriage may end up paying more tax. More tax will be paid at the higher rates when the second spouse dies and the tax-free allowance available on the first death would have been unused.
All in all, great care must be taken when setting up estate planning in France. With complex, cross-border issues, this is a specialist area and must be tailored to meet the personal objectives of the unique family situation.