Successful estate planning in France – Having a will is just the beginning
By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 16th October 2017
When I left school, I knew more about Shakespeare than I did about personal finance. While we gain academic knowledge through education, and professional knowledge through work, there is no formal channel for learning the key life skill of money management. Most of us pick it up in the same way we acquire our wealth – very few have a strategy, even fewer have a plan.
The problem is that personal finance can be complex, sometimes very complex. Mistakes can be costly. This is especially so in France, even for the French themselves. How much more so then for those of us whose first language is not French. And one of the most complicated areas of personal finance in France is estate and inheritance planning.
Successful personal finance is not just about organising our financial affairs so that, while we work hard for money, our money works hard for us. It is also about putting in place arrangements to transmit that resultant wealth in the best conditions to the chosen ones we leave behind.
The passing of a loved one can be one of the most stressful moments of our lives, one where our families are at their most vulnerable. It is then that we need to rely on the robustness of the arrangements that we have already put in place. In spite of this, most of us do not have even a basic will.
The starting point of any successful estate planning starts with defining the ultimate goal. There are three aspects: –
- The capacity to transfer at death whatever assets remain to your preferred beneficiaries in proportions of your choosing
- In the most cost efficient and tax intelligent manner with the minimum amount of deductions
- While ideally retaining and maximising as much control as possible during your lifetime
The bad news is that in France ‘forced heirship’ succession law and inheritance tax rates of up to 60% can make this difficult to achieve. For families with complicated situations, such as step children, this can be especially problematic and UK arrangements will not necessarily function in France and may have unpredicted results. Moreover, finding a proactive English speaking French lawyer prepared to take the time to fully understand your situation and needs can be both challenging and expensive.
The good news is that there is also a complexity of legal and financial planning strategies that can be used when defining your plan to help you achieve your goals and get you nearer to the ideal goal, as defined above. Here are some examples: –
- A will with the possible addition of a ‘clause d’attribution intégrale au survivant’ or ‘clause de préciput’. Given Brexit, hand written wills in English should not be relied on in practice.
- A change of marriage regime, typically from ‘séperation de biens’ to ‘communauté universelle’ to protect the surviving spouse
- Brussels IV (EU Regulation 650/2012) allows you to avoid French succession law (not tax) by opting for the law of your country of nationality rather than of your residence
- Adoption of step children
- Gifts (‘donations’)
- A strategy of dismemberment (‘démembrement’) of real estate into life interest (‘nu-propriété) and usufruct (‘usufruit’). This can significantly reduce the inheritance tax bill, especially if done sooner rather than later via a will at time of death
- Use of assurance vie as tax optimisation wrapper for financial assets, ideal for transmitting inheritance to distant relatives, friends or third parties
- Careful editing of the beneficiary clause within an assurance vie policy
- A strategy of dismemberment can also be applied to certain assurance vie policies.
- Use of inheritance tax free allowances –the standard 100,000 EUR per child per parent and a second one via assurance vie adds another 152,500 EUR per beneficiary.
So make it easier on your lawyer and help him to help you. Given the complexity of both the issues and the solutions, ask for a free holistic review of your situation from your financial adviser so you can already begin to define your needs and goals, and have an idea of what strategies are possible.
Thus prepared, you will make your lawyer’s job easier and so less time consuming. As well as achieving peace of mind, you might even save yourself some fees!
Preparing your loved ones for life after your death
By John Hayward - Topics: Costa Blanca, Estate Planning, Spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th September 2017
Having recently attended a funeral for a good friend of mine, I was reminded of the problems a death can create, aside from the actual act of dying. It appeared that, although he had organised a funeral plan, he had not made it clear where his Will was. Even if the Will was found, most Wills are written to distribute unspecified assets. An heir needs to know what assets there are before claiming anything. A draw full of files might appear organised but much of the content may be out of date or even completely irrelevant.
Who is the household´s financial controller?
In my experience, when dealing with couples, one party, normally the husband, deals with all things financial. This has resulted in many widows having a hard time with finances on the death of the husband. The thought of picking a phone up to contact their bank is daunting enough. Forgetting one of the six security questions is fatal. Logging into the online banking system is totally out of the question, even if they knew what the user ID and password were.
What can you do?
It is a really good idea to make a list, with company name and reference number, of all the bank accounts, insurance policies, investments (insurance bonds/unit trusts/shares), premium bonds, and anything else which would make life easier for those looking after your affairs on your demise. Here is a link which illustrates just how much information could be required. Are you confident someone will easily be able to put all of this together?
How can we help?
Many years ago, I was a “Man from the major UK insurance company”. I still tend to work on the home service principle. Meeting people in their homes has always been more attractive to me as paperwork will often be to hand. There is also the possibility of a cup of tea and a digestive. There have been times when I have found investments that people were unaware of and also helped to cull the collection of paperwork, creating more storage space, and possibly room for a new sofa (from the proceeds of the policy they didn´t know about). Obviously, I do not wish to major in house clearance but I am happy to help people organise their paperwork, review existing investments and pensions, and make life easier for those with the task of dealing with everything later. Hopefully much later.
Fun financial fact
According to several reports, in 2012, in the USA, a 1 cent coin cost 2.4 cents to make. By 2016, the cost had reduced to 1.5 cents. Making cents still does not seem to be making sense.
Wealth Tax in Catalunya
By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 3rd August 2017
We understand the need to pay tax. It gives us hospitals to treat our family, care in later life and many other services. Yet it is also easy to feel unhappy about some taxes. Some seem just downright unfair.
Wealth tax is the first of these. Having worked hard and paid tax on our earnings, we have then also paid tax on our savings. Despite this we have managed to build our savings, have become less of a burden on the state and yet we are now taxed again with Wealth Tax for having saved. Fortunately, it is possible to pay what is due but also to manage the amount due.
Wealth Tax in Catalunya – How it works
Wealth tax ( Patrimonial ) is applied if your worldwide assets are more than 500,000€ with an additional allowance of up to 300,000€ for your main residence. The tax is based upon your net wealth; assets minus liabilities.
In Catalunya the rates of tax start at 0.21% and rises to 2.75% depending on your wealth. Each year!
Your wealth as at 31st December is declared as part of your Declaración de la Renta, your annual tax return and the payment of the tax made on the 30th June in the following year.
How to manage the amount due
There are some assets that are excluded from Wealth tax. Surprisingly, some of these are mainstream investments. It may be possible to reduce your Wealth Tax by using an exempt investment.
In addition, the amount of tax due is capped at 60% of your income tax base, subject to paying at least 20% of the total tax based on your wealth. It is often possible to adjust your income so that you are limited to the 60% of your income tax base. Typically, this is done by using investments which are not assessed for tax each year. However, there are several methods of planning to achieve a reduction in Wealth Tax.
Who would inherit your Assets if you die without a will?
By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 26th May 2017
You might be surprised to know that 59%, that’s over half of UK adults, have not written a Will. And if you are over 55 there is a 36% chance you haven’t either. The main reason for this…….most people believe they are not wealthy enough to need a Will, or they are too young to make one. But what would happen to your assets if the worse did happen?
Is there a living husband, wife or civil partner?
If you are married, or have a civil partnership then it’s actually very straightforward and they would inherit your entire estate. But would you want that? And how about if by some awful miracle both of you departed this happy land, what would happen to your assets then? But let us put those to one side for now; imagine you have children, whom decide where they will be raised and who with? If you are living away from the UK this makes it even more complicated. If you don’t have a Will, you are leaving all of this to the authorities and not planning to protect yourself and your loved ones for the sake of a simple document.
Imagine you have a partner, but are not married and not in a civil partnership, would you be surprised to know they have no right to your assets? How would that affect them?
Let’s imagine, as more people these days are for various reasons not having children, that down the family line to Great Aunts/Uncles there is no one related to you. You might not be very happy to know that ‘The Crown? Inherits your assets, that is the Royal Family. In fact fewer people in the UK have Wills than a year ago.
Back in August 2015 the Wills laws changed in Europe, with the main different being you can CHOOSE which laws you wish your Will to follow. The choice is either your country of domicility (usually where you were born/hold a passport for) or the country you reside in now. If you are British most people choose the UK as the laws are easier, you have more control and less complex than those in Spain.
Find out here who would inherit your assets by clicking on this link:
To enquire about making a Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can arrange for you to talk this through with a Will writer so you know:
- The process involved
- The costs
- How it works
- There is no charge for this peace of mind
*unbiased.co.uk research conducted by Opinium Research between 19 to 23 August 2016, among 2,000 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+
Inheritance Tax Planning
By Derek Winsland - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning, Tax
This article is published on: 18th April 2017
In my everyday dealings with prospective clients and ex-pats looking for advice generally, I’m finding myself dealing with increasingly more complex personal and family situations. From re-structuring of UK investments such as general investment accounts and Individual Savings Accounts (ISA) to make them French tax-friendly, analyzing occupational pensions to assess the suitability of transferring way from the UK and into QROPS, through to financial planning for the future, every case is varied and different, requiring bespoke advice.
One area I find particularly common is how best to address the impact French succession laws have on those of us used to the fairly flexible UK Inheritance Tax laws. In the UK, its fairly simple: you can leave everything you own to your spouse free from inheritance tax. On the surviving spouse’s subsequent demise, the first £325,000 of that person’s estate can be passed on without tax liability. Since 2007, the deceased partner’s allowance can also now be used by the surviving spouse, thereby ensuring that £650,000 of the combined estate is free from taxation. In addition, there is an additional property nil rate band that can boost the tax exemption even further. Furthermore, with the exception of the spouse, there is no discrimination in who benefits in terms of tax treatment. The tax rate in UK is 40% on the excess over the £325,000 threshold.
In France, assets passing to the spouse have also been tax free since 2007, but this is where the similarity ends in terms of potential taxation. Taking its lead from Code Napoleon, French succession laws put the children of the deceased at the forefront when determining who inherits, giving them Protected Heirs status. Who inherits, and that person’s relationship to the deceased, also determines what tax free allowance is available and following on from that what tax is payable.
Sons and daughters, both natural and adopted, can receive €100,000 each from the deceased’s estate free from tax, thereafter there is a sliding scale based on the amount inherited. But here’s the rub: step-children are not blood related, so the children’s allowance doesn’t apply to them and they fall into the category of ‘unrelated person’. As such they can only inherit €1,594 free from inheritance tax. The balance is taxed at the eye-watering rate of 60%.
Protected Heirs are entitled to receive the major share of the deceased’s estate, at the expense of the spouse, so structures need to be put in place to protect the spouse, such as wills, marriage regimes, family pacts etc. Generally, these relate to the property, but can also include more liquid assets such as bank deposits and investments.
When addressing the issue of shielding step-children from the severest level of taxation, at the same time ensuring the surviving spouse is properly looked after, one weapon in our armoury is the assurance vie, or life assurance investment bond. On the death of the bond holder, any beneficiary can inherit without discrimination. In the holder of the assurance vie was below age 70 when the policy was taken out, each beneficiary can inherit €152,500 without a tax liability. For amounts above €152,500 the tax rate is 20% or 31.25% if the amount inherited is above €700,000. This is per beneficiary and not per assurance vie. But what if I don’t want my money to pass to my children or step-children on my death, but rather to go to my spouse?
This is where it gets clever! By inserting a Demembrement Clause within the assurance vie policy, your spouse can be granted usufruit or life interest in the assets held in the policy, thereby ensuring protection to him or her.
And there’s more. By drawing capital out of the deceased’s policy, the spouse is creating a debt that will be repaid on the spouse’s subsequent death, paid for out of his or her estate, thereby further reducing the amount of any inheritance tax liability. This is what we call true financial planning, and this forms the bed-rock of what we do here in Spectrum.
If you have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.
Spanish Succession Tax (Inheritance tax)
By Chris Webb - Topics: Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 16th March 2017
If you are a resident of Spain it is important to understand that there will be liabilities due to the Spanish government in the event of a death. Whether it’s you that is inheriting part of an estate or it’s your estate being distributed the taxman is going to want his share.
Many British nationals don’t realise that depending on the asset and its location there may also be a claim from the UK taxman. Just because you are a non UK resident it does not eliminate the requirement to settle taxes in both the UK and Spain. Spanish succession tax will be due either when the assets being inherited are located in Spain, such as a property, even if the recipient of the asset lives outside of Spain OR if the assets are based outside of Spain but the recipient lives in Spain.
For example: if you leave your Spanish property to your children who are now UK residents they will be liable to pay succession tax to the Spanish government. On the flip side if you receive an inheritance from the UK and you are a Spanish resident then again you have to pay tax in Spain.
As mentioned above, if you are a British national and are resident in Spain you could be liable to UK inheritance tax as well as Spanish succession tax. In the UK they require all worldwide assets to be declared, as you will be considered “UK domiciled” by the government. It is almost impossible to be considered as anything other than UK domiciled, even if you haven’t lived in the UK for some time.
There is no double tax treaty signed between the UK and Spain when it comes to inheritance, however if tax has been paid in the UK the amount is usually deductible against the Spanish liability.
To complicate matters further, Spain have a standard set of “State Rules” which lay down the rates and allowances for succession tax as well as individual “Autonomous rules” which means things are different from one community to another. Detailed below are these state rules:
The tax rates differ depending on the value of the amount inherited. These range from 7.65% on the first €7,933, up to 34% on €797,555 and over.
Beneficiaries are graded into four different groups and the more remote the beneficiary’s relationship is to the deceased the lower the tax allowance and the higher the tax rates. These four groups are:
- Natural and adopted children under 21
- Natural and adopted children aged 21 and over, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses
- in-laws and their ascendants/descendants, stepchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts
- all others including unmarried partners
Allowances are available between husband and wife or direct line ascendants/descendants, but this is set at just short of €16.000. If an inheritor is also a direct line descendant under the age of 21, there is an additional allowance of €3,990 for each year they are under 21. The total of this additional allowance is restricted to €47,858 per child or grandchild.
For more distant relatives (e.g. cousins) the exemption is set at €7,933. There is no exemption for beneficiaries who are not related.
A main home in Spain may be virtually exempt from Spanish succession tax provided the beneficiaries are either your spouse, parents or children and they continue to own the property for ten years from the date of death.
The exemption can also apply where the beneficiary is a more distant relative over the age of 65 and they have lived with you for at least two years before death. If these conditions are met, the value of the house can be reduced by 95% in calculating the tax base liable, subject to a maximum reduction in value per inheritor of €122,606. It is important to note that this is only applies principal private residence and is owned by a Spanish resident.
Some examples of where the Autonomous rules differ from the state rules:
In Valenciana, spouses and children receive an allowance of €100,000 each. They can also benefit from a 75% reduction in the amount of succession tax payable.
In Murcia, the taxable inheritance for children under 21 is reduced by 99%, while older children and spouses get a 50% reduction.
In Andalucía, spouses and children can benefit from a 100% exemption for inheritances up to €175,000, provided they are not worth more than €402,268.
Cataluña offers a 99% allowance for spouses. Other Group I and II relatives receive a relief depending on the amount of their inheritance. Personal reductions are €100,000 for spouses and children (more for those under 21), €50,000 for other descendants, €30,000 for ascendants and €8,000 for other relatives. The 95% main home relief is up to a property value of €500,000, with the amount pro-rated among the beneficiaries (minimum €180,000 limit each). The property need only be kept five years rather than the 10 year state rule.
To summarise the key points of succession tax:
- Tax is paid by each recipient, rather than by the estate
- Spouses are not exempt
- Allowances under the state rules are very low – just €15,957 for spouses, descendants over 21 and ascendants, €7,993 for other close relatives and nil for everyone else
- Under state rules, tax is applied at progressive rates from 7.65% (for assets under €7,993) to 34% (for assets over €797,555). However, multipliers depending on the relationship between the two can increase this rate
- If you leave assets to your spouse, who then passes them on to your children when he/she dies, succession tax will be due again on the second death
- Succession tax also applies to pension funds
- Tax is paid at the time of the inheritance, even if the funds are not accessed at the time. There is a six-month period to pay the tax after the death, although it is possible to apply for an extension in certain cases
- Succession tax is governed by both state and local autonomous community rules; each community has the right to amend the state rules
- Whether the state or the local autonomous community rules apply for each case, depends on where the beneficiary and the donor are resident and where the assets inherited/gifted are located
- If you are UK domiciled you need to consider both the UK inheritance tax rules as well as the Spanish succession tax rules
Whilst the Spectrum IFA Group are not tax advisers, we can help to put you in touch with the right people. It is important to understand the various succession tax rules and how they apply to your situation, as well as how they affect any UK liability. You need specialist advice to understand the intricacies of the two tax regimes, and how to lower both tax liabilities and potentially save your heirs a considerable amount of tax. You can often combine your estate planning with your personal tax planning.
*Sources: Advoco, LegalforSpain, Globalpropertyguide, GovUK, AILO
French Inheritance Planning
By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Le Tour de Finance, Succession Planning, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 9th September 2016
In May, I wrote about tax-efficient savings & investments in France, including Assurance Vie (AV), which is the most popular type of investment in France for medium to long-term savings. If you did not see the article, you can find it at www.spectrum-ifa.com/tax-efficient-savings-investments-france/
I had intended to return to discuss the benefits of AV for French inheritance planning, in the following month. But then we had the result of the Brexit vote and that caught my attention just a little more!
So now I am getting back to basics of what works for successful French inheritance planning for financial assets – regardless of whether the UK is in or out of the EU – and regardless of nationality. Without a doubt, this is the AV, as this is an excellent planning tool for protecting the survivor, providing you with freedom of choice about who you can leave your financial assets to, as well as mitigating the potential inheritance taxes for your beneficiaries.
In France, there are strict rules on succession and children are ‘protected heirs’, each being entitled to inherit a proportion of their parents’ estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is half; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.
However, for a quirk of historical reasoning, the death benefits paid from an AV fall outside of your standard estate. Therefore, you can leave the proceeds of your AV to whoever you wish and so get around the French ‘forced’ succession rules. I know that there will be many out there who are saying that you can do this anyway now, as a result of the EU Succession Regulations. Well that’s true, but maybe it’s not quite as straightforward as one might think – or at least hoped!
The problem is that even though the EU Regulations have been in place for more than a year now, these have not been widely tested. Notaires and cross-border legal specialists are still trying to get to grips with how these Regulations actually work in practice. So I, like many other professionals, still hold the view that if there is a tried and tested ‘French way’ to achieve your objectives, then this should be used. Early articles that I wrote on this subject can be found at www.spectrum-ifa.com/the-eu-succession-regulations/
The EU Succession Regulations do not change the potential French inheritances taxes that are payable, but an AV does. Whilst there are no French inheritance taxes between spouses and partners who have entered into a legal civil partnership (known as a PACS, in France), for other beneficiaries, the tax rate varies according to their relationship to you. For example, step-children (and other non-blood beneficiaries) are taxed at a punitive 60%!
For amounts invested in an AV before age 70, each beneficiary (whatever their relationship to you) is entitled to a tax-free allowance of €152,500. Taxation is limited to 20% on amounts paid above the allowance up to €700,000, and at 31.25% for amounts exceeding €700,000 per beneficiary). There is still no tax between spouses and PACSd partners, whatever amount is transmitted.
There is no limit to the number of beneficiaries that you can name. Hence, whatever your family situation, it is possible to pass on your capital to whoever you like, without them suffering excessive rates of French inheritance tax. Thus, the survivor can be fully protected and then the capital can subsequently pass to your other beneficiaries, following the death of the survivor.
For amounts invested after age 70, the inheritance allowance for all your beneficiaries combined is reduced to €30,500 (plus the investment return on the total amount invested). In effect, therefore, it is only the amount invested that exceeds €30,500 that would be taxed at standard French inheritance tax rates.
Sadly, social contributions are now charged on any gain in the policy paid out as a death benefit. Even so, when the above inheritance planning advantages are taken into account together with the personal tax savings, this makes the AV a very attractive proposition.
Inheritance planning is a highly specialised and complicated subject. Everyone’s family situation and level of wealth is different and it is very important to seek professional advice, so that the best course of action for you can be established.
The benefits of AV and tax-efficiency is a subject that we cover in our popular financial seminars across France – “Le Tour de Finance – Bringing Experts to Expats”. Overall, our industry experts will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:
- Financial Markets
- Assurance Vie
- French Tax Issues
- Currency Exchange
The date for the local seminar is Friday, 7th October 2016 at the Domaine Gayda, 11300 Brugairolles. Places are limited and must be reserved, in advance. This venue is always very popular and with less than a month to go, the event is likely to soon be fully booked. Therefore, you should contact us as soon as possible if you would like to come to the seminar. I will be at the event with our other advisers in this area, Rob, Derek and Sue.
In practice, financial advice is needed more than ever in uncertain times. Doing nothing can often be an expensive mistake. Hence, if you are not able to attend the seminar and would anyway like to have a confidential discussion with one of our financial advisers, you can contact us by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an advisor is available immediately for an initial discussion.
The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of the investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.
The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.