Bastille Day, or "Le quatorze Juillet" as it's known in France, is a day of national celebration. Wherever you celebrate and whether you are French living in the UK or a Francophile with interests there, please give some thought to your French connections and what that means for your personal estate planning position.
There's a general misunderstanding here that the day marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 (a significant moment in the French Revolution). In reality, the day has more complex origins. It also commemorates the anniversary of the "Fête de la Fédération" - a large gathering held in 1790, a year after the storming of the Bastille, to symbolise French unity, peace and the dawn of the constitutional monarchy (which would be overthrown to make way for the First French Republic only three years later).
Le quatorze Juillet is a celebration, not just in France, but for French people living across the globe. As a dual French and British citizen, the day holds significance for me and my family and, while I cannot celebrate with them in person this year, I am reminded of my connection to France.
France v Scotland - which law applies?
Much like the global misconception surrounding the origins of Bastille Day, the succession implications of owning property or having interests both here and in France are often misunderstood. The legal system in France has been shaped by its history and the French rules on succession differ considerably from those in Scotland. I have highlighted some of these differences here.
In Scotland, your domicile (broadly your home) determines which law applies to the succession of your estate on death. Your domicile of origin (where you were born) can be replaced by a domicile of choice if you move elsewhere intending to remain there. If you are French but living in Scotland, you may have acquired a domicile of choice here meaning that Scottish law would apply to the succession of your estate.
France has different rules for determining which law applies to the succession of your estate - it is party to the EU Regulation No.650/2012 (“Succession Regulation”) which came into force in 2015. This will affect Scottish domiciled individuals with assets in France. Under the Succession Regulation, the estate of an individual devolves in accordance with the law of the country in which they are habitually resident, unless that individual has specifically elected (by making a choice of law election) for their estate to devolve in accordance with the law of their nationality.
The relationship between the different succession rules in France and Scotland can have surprising results for individuals with cross border interests and taking expert advice is crucial.
If Scottish law applies to your succession, your estate will be subject to legal rights which ensure that a proportion of your moveable property is held for your spouse and/or your children irrespective of the terms of your will.
The forced heirship rules in France go much further than this and place considerable limitations on testamentary freedom.
Expert advice is essential
Whether you are lucky enough to be soaking up the atmosphere and watching the parade on the Champs Élysées, or you have plans for a quieter celebration, perhaps with some smelly French cheeses and a glass of Bordeaux, if you have interests in both France and Scotland, please contact a member of our team to discuss what these connections mean for you and your succession plans.