Planning your retirement in France
PUBLISHED: 15:12 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 16 May 2017
Retirement in France can be idyllic but make sure you plan ahead and take the necessary legal steps to ensure you can relax and enjoy your golden years in France
Lindsay Kinnealy is international property lead at Slater and Gordon
Research shows that six out of 10 Britons would prefer to retire overseas. With cheap air travel, Skype, FaceTime and mobile phones, retiring to another country no longer means being completely absent from your family’s life, so relocating is a real possibility for many.
It often sounds idyllic – warmer climes, cheaper property, great lifestyle… and it can be, but as much as we hate to admit it, we do know that we won’t go on forever. Taking a few relevant steps early on means you can relax and enjoy your retirement abroad or possibly return home, knowing that, even if something unexpected should happen, you’ve put measures in place that will help you retain some control over your future care and life, as well as protect your loved ones.
Structuring your property purchase
Buying a property in the right way to ensure that your co-owner or loved ones inherit without any hassles has always been a good first step. You may or may not have thought about that before you acquired your property; if not, it’s not too late to explore your options, and possibly address during your lifetime any disadvantageous situations you’ve inadvertently allowed to arise.
Making a will
Making provisions in a will is another way to take care of your nearest and dearest. Recent changes to EU succession regulations, which are in place in Europe including France (though not in the UK, Ireland or Denmark), enable a choice of law to be made in accordance with the law of one’s nationality. France applies these so Brexit should have no impact. If you have not made an express or implied choice of law, the law that applies to your property will be determined according to the place of your habitual residence on death, so it’s more important than ever to take advice and make a suitable will or wills. It may be that a suitable French estate planning option is available, and it may then be better for the UK client not to make a choice of law.
A French holographic (handwritten) will may be the best option for many. It has the advantage of being simple and short; French notaires are familiar and used to dealing with them, and they are safer from a tax perspective. A French will can be registered and easily be located via the Fichier Central des Dispositions des Dernières Volontés (FCDDV), the French wills registry. French notaires would normally apply the French will to the French property but would probably want to see a copy of any UK will. Consult a specialist in French and UK wills to ensure that the wording of both French and English-language wills is correct and absolutely clear as to the law which is to apply, for example, and that they are aware of any tax or legal consequences arising from this choice.
Another option is a formal will drawn up by a notaire and witnessed by two notaires, or one notaire and two witnesses. You can discuss this option directly with your notaire.
Lasting power of attorney
Sadly, ageing can bring other issues. With people living considerably longer nowadays, it’s prudent to consider how to deal with the prospect of loss of mental as well as physical capacity – one’s own or that of a loved one.
If you’ve had ‘the conversation’ before such an eventuality arises, partners can help each other make difficult decisions as to their future welfare, care and plans, and whether that involves returning to the UK or remaining in France.
In the UK, you can speak to a specialist solicitor about the possibility of making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) to deal with all your property and finances and/or your health and welfare to make sure your wishes are respected. These allow you to choose the people you trust and want to act on your behalf should you later begin to lose your ability to manage your personal affairs because of physical or mental incapacity. This would take effect during your lifetime, only if it was needed, and is completely separate to a will.
Creating an LPA gives you the reassurance that you know who’ll make the decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself, someone you know for sure will act in your best interests. Putting one in place puts you in control and once needed, saves considerable difficulty, expense and time should your family later need to make decisions for you.
You may also wish to specify the extent to which you would want to have medical intervention or treatments, or to give your partner or children the authority to deal with your property so that they can sign contracts and deeds to allow a property to be sold and your funds repatriated and reinvested for your benefit.
Specialist lawyers can provide practical and legal guidance throughout the LPA creation and registration process, explaining the role of LPAs within the context of your estate planning and helping you focus on the important aspects to ensure that each document suits your own specific requirements.
Mandat de Protection Future
If you’re planning to remain resident in France, you may wish to consider making a similar form of French deed, a Mandat de Protection Future (MPF), and you can discuss this with your notaire. An English adult with full capacity, for example, living in France, could choose either French or English law to apply, so either a French MPF or English LPA could be signed.
The choice of system should be the law of their nationality, the law of their immediately previous habitual residence or their current habitual residence, or the law of the place where their assets are situated.