Which is the competent authority?
Who should I contact?

Last update: 10/5/2012

Where the estate includes real estate, the settlement of a succession requires the services of a notary. Even if the estate does not include any real estate, the use of the services of a civil law notary is nevertheless recommended. Consequently, it is advisable to contact the civil law notary of your choosing who will handle the various stages of the succession procedure.

Initially, the civil law notary draws up a list of the people entitled to an inheritance and their respective rights. The civil law notary draws up an estimated inventory of the deceased’s estate, listing the assets making up the deceased’s estate (bank accounts, negotiable securities, furniture, real estate) and the liabilities composed of debts.

The civil law notary then completes the mortgage and tax formalities in connection with the death: preparing and filing a real estate certificate for property with the mortgage register; drawing up the declaration of estate and, if applicable, paying the death duties to the tax authorities within six months after death; possibly requesting the deferred or fractioned payment of inheritance tax, etc.

Detailed information

Which international rules of jurisdiction apply to the assets of a national or a foreign citizen?

In the absence of applicable standards pursuant to international conventions on real estate, the French authorities are competent for any property located on French territory.
For personal property, the French authorities are competent if the deceased, irrespective of his/her nationality, had his/her last domicile in France.

Which international rules of jurisdiction apply to the assets of the deceased if located abroad?

For personal property, even property located abroad, the French authorities are competent if the deceased, irrespective of his/her nationality, had his/her last domicile in France.
However, the French authorities consider that, in principle, they do not have competence for real estate located abroad.

Which authority is responsible for the succession procedure?
In France notaries are responsible for settling successions. If the estate includes real estate, it is compulsory to use the services of a civil law notary. Although there is no such obligation if the estate does not include real estate, the use of the services of a civil law notary is nevertheless recommended.
The civil law notary draws up a list of the people entitled to inherit. The civil law notary also prepares an estimate of the value of the deceased’s estate, composed of the succession’s assets and liabilities (debts).
The civil law notary then completes the mortgage and tax formalities in connection with the death: preparing and filing a real estate certificate for real estate with the mortgage registry; drawing up the declaration of estate, etc.
In the event of a dispute, the Court of First Instance has exclusive material and territorial jurisdiction.

How and by whom is the succession procedure instigated?
The succession is opened at the point of the deceased’s death (article 720 of the Civil Code).
The procedure then involves the exercising of the heir’s right of option (article 768 of the Civil Code). Assets are transferred ipso jure at the time of death but such a transfer is not essential.

How is the heir’s capacity checked?
Heirs can prove their capacity as heir by any means (article 730 of the Civil Code).
Their capacity may be proved by a sworn affidavit drawn up by a civil law notary, at the request of one or more rightful claimants (article 730-1 of the Civil Code). This affidavit is considered authentic until proof to the contrary (article 730-3 of the Civil Code).

Is there a system regarding the administration of the succession?
It is possible to appoint a trustee to administer the estate (article 814 of the Civil Code): any person (the principal) may appoint, during his life, one or more persons (trustee) to administer and manage all or part of his/her estate on behalf and in the interest of one or more heirs (in particular if they are unable to administer the estate themselves because of their age or a disability).
The trustee may be an heir (article 812 of the Civil Code). He/she must accept the mandate before the principal’s death (article 812-1-1 of the Civil Code).
The mandate must be drawn up by a civil law notary (article 812 of the Civil Code) in the form of a notarial deed (article 812-1-1 of the Civil Code) or by the clerk of the Court of First Instance if there is no prenuptial agreement or will.

How is the succession closed?
The succession is closed when the estate’s assets have been shared out between the beneficiaries. This puts an end to the joint ownership. This may be carried out amicably (article 835 of the Civil Code) or by order of the court (article 840 of the Civil Code). Any heir may request the partition of the estate (article 815 of the Civil Code). Creditors of a joint owner may apply for partition (article 815-17 of the Civil Code).