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Viewing posts categorised under: Wills

The folder…

By Chris Webb - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Madrid, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 10th August 2020

10.08.20

I´ve been playing around with this article during the past few days, trying to fill in some spare time during the weeks of this long hot summer we have here in Spain. I realised quite quickly that writing things that will be of genuine interest could be quite hard so for this article I´ve decided to share with you what I personally am doing at home right now.

Considering some limitations of movement right now it would be a great time to give this some thought.

One piece of advice I always give to my clients is to prepare “THE FOLDER”. You´re immediately wondering what I´m going on about, let me enlighten you to what it is and why you should do it.

For me personally I am reviewing my folder and checking its updated. Interestingly I needed to refer to my folder yesterday and realised I still had some older information on there which isn’t relevant anymore, so tonight’s job is to review and update.

There are many scenarios where you´ll be thankful for making the folder. When I moved house two years ago I went straight to the folder and had all of the companies contact information as well as policies or account details which made informing them all much easier, on the flip side I´ve also lost a family member where finding their folder reduced the stress in dealing with their estate.

In moments of stress you find yourself trawling through endless pieces of paperwork to ascertain assets and account details, then you get that lightbulb moment…….. why wasn’t it all documented.

The Folder | Chris Webb | Spectrum IFA Group

What is THE folder?
It is a single file (digital or physical) where you keep all your important personal and financial information together. It allows easy access to these documents if you’re no longer around to help. It is even more important to have it in place where one family member takes the lead on the family finances. That includes paying bills, managing accounts and storing documents.

As a family we decided to do both a physical folder and a digital folder. The digital folder is password protected, both me and the wife have access to this, and we have shared the password with close friends should anything happen to us. In the digital folder we have shared as much information as possible for all our assets.

For the physical folder it is vital to only list information that would not create a problem should that folder end up in the wrong hands. So, we have only listed the names, telephone numbers, policy / account numbers of all our assets in this folder. It would give enough information for someone to be able to deal with our affairs with minimum hassle.

Is it worth the effort?
Well, I think it is worth the effort. A time of loss can be stressful enough without having to try and piece together the deceased’s financial affairs. This can be a really difficult time for family members.

However, preparing THE folder is much more than avoiding stress; if you leave behind an administrative nightmare you could delay access to inheritors’ access to funds and potentially cost a small fortune in legal fees.

To give you an example of this, the UK Department of Work and Pensions estimate that there is currently more than £400 million sitting in unclaimed pensions pots in the UK. Imagine trying to find out if you have one.

chris webb Spectrum IFA

Which is best physical or digital?
As I mentioned, we have done both and I believe most people would do the same. Some people still love to have information in physical form, something you can get your hands on. The younger generation tend to rely solely on digital devices. I don’t think it matters which way you do it, as long as you do it.

What goes in the folder?
Its essential to list what assets you have, where they are and important contact information for each asset. Keep copies of any insurance policy documents, pension statements etc. I have put a small list below which would help most of you, but you do need to look at all your assets individually to make sure the list is right!

  • Life insurance policy documents
  • Personal pension documents
  • Employer pension details
  • Details of any entitlement to state pensions
  • List of bank accounts with account numbers, login details, passwords etc
  • Details of any credit cards
  • Property, land and cemetery deeds
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle ownership documents
  • Stock certificates, brokerage accounts, investment platform details, online investment account details
  • Details of holdings of premium bonds, government bonds, investment bonds
  • Partnership and corporate operating/ownership agreements (including offshore companies)

How often should ‘THE’ folder be reviewed?
I would recommend reviewing the folder on an annual basis, but if you’re extra diligent with it you should review and update every time something changes. For example, if you change insurance companies then add the new details and delete the old. This is a continuous job, its not something you do once and never look at again.

Finally…
Tell someone about your folder. Someone needs to know you have made one and whether it´s digital or physical. There is very little point going to all this effort if know body knows it exists.

Now I´m off to review my own folder, and it needs reviewing. I noticed yesterday that whilst my financial assets are up to date, I haven’t updated our vehicle details and a few other things which had gone unnoticed. Lets do this!

If you have any questions about creating your own folder feel free to reach out!

The when I die folder

By Antony Poole - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 7th July 2020

07.07.20

Discussing how to deal with “life after death” with loved ones is not an easy topic for most families, much less planning for it. While it may sound morbid, creating a “When I Die” folder will save loved ones time and money because nothing is more time consuming and agonizing than sorting through a month’s worth of mail, rifling through cabinets to locate a last will and testament and trying to sort out all the different policies that are accumulated through the years.

While you may be thinking, I don’t have so much that I require a folder. Actually, the opposite is true. A “When I Die” folder is about much more than you’re your assets; it should include debts, funeral and final disposition arrangements, passwords, and letters to loved ones, among other things. The difference between having your files organized or not is about more than just stress; leave behind a mess and it can delay inheritors’ access to funds and cause potentially high legal fees.

The ”When I die” folder can be a physical or digital folder that an individual or family keeps that contains important information that will be needed in the event that someone dies or becomes incapacitated. It serves an important, but often overlooked role in estate planning.

A good start to your folder can be found BELOW to enable you to start one for yourself or for a family member, please feel free to adapt it.

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY AND ORGANISE YOUR ‘FOLDER’

UK share portfolio

Should you require any help with estate planning please feel free to contact me:

Inheritance Planning & French Residency

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Moving to France, Succession Planning, Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th June 2020

09.06.20

Welcome to ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’.

The Covid-19 pandemic still dominates the news and will inevitably remain at the forefront of our thoughts for some time. Last month we focused on the financial consequences of this virus and we may well return to this subject in future editions. However, in this issue we are going to focus on the very important, and often neglected, subject of Wills and Inheritance Planning. Succession laws in France differ significantly from those in the UK and careful planning is required to mitigate French inheritance tax.

As a reminder, we are Sue Regan, Rob Hesketh, Derek Winsland and Philip Oxley. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie.

As touched on in last month’s Newsletter, now is probably a good time to revisit the subject of inheritance planning – an integral part of any financial planning review.

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of our demise, very few people actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary. With some sensible planning you could save your intended beneficiaries a great deal of stress and dramatically reduce their inheritance tax bill.

The basic rule is, if you are resident in France, you are considered also to be domiciled in France for inheritance purposes and your worldwide estate becomes taxable in France, where the tax rates depend upon the relationship to your beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is no inheritance tax between spouses and the allowance between a parent and a child is reasonably generous, currently €100,000 per child, per parent. For anything left to other beneficiaries, the allowances are considerably less. In particular, for step-children and other non-related beneficiaries, the allowance is only €1,594 and the tax rate on anything above that is an eye-watering 60%!

There are strict rules on succession and children are considered to be ‘protected heirs’ and so are entitled to inherit a proportion of each of their parent’s estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is 50% of the deceased parent’s estate; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, then three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

You are free to pass on the rest of your estate (the disposable part) to whoever you wish through a French will and, in the absence of making a will, if you have a surviving spouse, he/she would be entitled to 25% of your estate.

You may also be considered domiciled in your ‘home country’ and if so, this could cause some confusion, since your home country may also have the right to charge succession taxes on your death. However, France has a number of Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) with other countries covering inheritance. In such a case, the DTT will set out the rules that apply (basically, ‘which’ country has the right to tax ‘what’ assets).

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country.

moving-to-france

Therefore, for a UK national who is resident in France, who has retained a property in the UK (and does not own any other property outside of France), the situation would be that:

  • any French property, plus his/her total financial assets, would be taxed in accordance with French law; and
  • the UK property would be taxed in accordance with UK law, although in theory, the French notaire can take this asset into account when considering the fair distribution of all other assets to any ‘protected heirs’ ie. children

If a DTT covering inheritance does not exist between France and the other country, with which the French resident person has an interest, this could result in double taxation, if the ‘home’ country also has the right to tax the person’s estate. Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:

  • how to protect the survivor; and
  • how to mitigate the potential French inheritance taxes for other beneficiaries

Protecting the survivor
There are various ways in which you can protect your spouse:

European Succession Regulation No. 650/2012
Many of you will no doubt have heard about the EU Succession Regulations that came into effect in 2015 whereby the default situation is that it is the law of your place of habitual residence that applies to your estate. However, you can elect for the inheritance law of your country of nationality to apply to your estate by specifying this in a French will. This is effectively one way of getting around the issue of ‘protected heirs’ for some expats living in France.

Adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime or family pact
There are other tried and tested French structures available to fully protect the rights of a spouse, that don’t rely on the notaire having an understanding of the succession laws of other countries.

You could choose to have the marriage regime of ‘communauté universelle avec une clause d’attribution intégrale au conjoint survivant’. Under this marriage regime, all assets are owned within a ‘community pot’ and on the death of the first person, those community assets are transferred to the survivor without any attribution of half of the assets to the deceased’s estate.

However, adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime would not be suitable for families with step-children. This sort of arrangement could be subject to a legal challenge by the survivor’s step-children as they could miss out on their inheritance due to the fact that there is no blood relationship with the step-parent.

In this situation, a family pact (pacte de famille) could be the solution, whereby families agree in advance who will inherit and when. Of course, this would only really work where there is an amicable relationship between parents and children, as the children are effectively waiving all or some of their right to inherit.

There are a number of other ways in which you can arrange your affairs to protect the survivor, depending on your individual circumstances, and we would always recommend that you discuss succession planning in detail with a notaire experienced in these matters.

Mitigation of inheritance tax
On whichever planning you decide, it is important to remember that the French inheritance tax rules will still apply. So, even though you have the freedom to decide who inherits your estate, this will not reduce the potential inheritance tax liability on your beneficiaries, which, as mentioned above, could potentially be very high for a step-child. Hence, there will still be a need to shelter financial assets from French inheritance taxes.

By far and away the most popular vehicle in France for sheltering your hard-earned savings from inheritance tax is the Assurance Vie. The assurance vie is considered to be outside of your estate for tax purposes and comes with its own inheritance allowances, in addition to the standard aIllowance for other assets. If you invest in an assurance vie before the age of 70 you can name as many beneficiaires as you like, regardless of whether they are family or not, and each beneficiary can inherit up to €152,500, tax-free. The rate of tax on the next €700,000 is limited to 20% – potentially making a huge saving for remoter relatives or step-children.

Let’s look at a simple example of the inheritance tax position of a married couple with two children, comparing the IHT position with and without investing in assurance vie:

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

It is clear to see from this example that by wrapping their medium to long term savings in an assurance vie, this couple have saved each child €30,500 in IHT.

Of course, the more beneficiaries nominated, for example grandchildren, siblings, etc, the greater the IHT saving overall. Beneficiaries can be changed or added to the assurance vie at any time. Remember, also, that beneficiary nominations are not restricted to family members, so, whoever you nominate gets the same allowance.

The inheritance allowance on premiums paid to assurance vie after age 70 are less attractive at €30,500 of the premium (capital investment) plus the growth on the capital shared between all named beneficiaries, and the remaining capital invested is taxed in accordance with the standard IHT bands.

Nevertheless, an assurance vie is still a worthwhile investment after the age of 70 as, in addition to the inheritance tax benefits, assurance vie offers personal tax efficiencies to the investor such as gross roll-up of income and gains whilst funds remain in the policy and an annual income tax allowance of €4,600, or €9,200 for a couple, after 8 years.

So, in order to ensure that your inheritance wishes are carried out, some planning may be required and there are investment opportunities to mitigate the IHT for your chosen beneficiaries.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances.

The Spectrum IFA Group – Occitainie
occitainie@spectrum-ifa.com

Planning for the Inevitable

By David Hattersley - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 13th February 2020

13.02.20

The Grim Reaper is not a nice subject, but its finality remains. There are those left behind, alone after the loss of their Spouse or Partner. There is a grieving process. But at the same time is the harsh reality of due process. Wills, Probate, Succession Tax, Inheritance Tax and Death Certificates spring to mind, with added complication in a “Cross Border” society. One hopes that we can offer sympathy, support and help, but trying to soften the blow for loved ones is best prepared for with forward planning such as Wills, Funeral Plans, Life Insurance and Estate Planning.

Circumstances prior to death take many forms. Recent family experience has bought all of this into sharp focus; there was the duality of emotions, allied to the need to help in a professional capacity in what was a complex mire. The double edged sword of living longer applies. Death can be quick, or prolonged due to substantial improvements in many critical fields such as cancer treatment.

“Lingering Death” can take months or years. Drugs can help alleviate Dementia & Alzheimer’s, but do not provide a cure. These illnesses are certified causes on a Death Certificate. What isn’t is the loss of “Independent Existence”. This is a gradual erosion; loss of a lifetime spouse/partner, location, loss of mobility and simply carrying out simple day to day tasks all take their toll. It creates an immense strain on the family, financially and emotionally. ”Long Term Care” often starts in the home, but eventually Long Term Care in a Residential Nursing Home can become the only option.

In Spain costs are substantially less than the UK, but for some the UK becomes the only option due to language and family support. Careful planning in advance can sometimes mitigate the more onerous UK costs and “taxes” or help prolong the benefits of living in Spain. But it is complex and many factors need to be considered well in advance, taking into account “Cross Border Taxes” and differing rules.

It is hard to consider the impact of all the above and many people prefer to ignore it, but I feel compelled to bring this important subject into the open. There are things you can do to make things easier for your loved ones; if financial and legal aspects are well planned out, that is one less thing for them to worry about. I will be posting a series of articles dealing with the many differing issues that I have come across and the steps you can take to overcome them, as it will affect us all one way or another.

Don’t despair or defer; positive steps can be made to mitigate future headaches as much as possible and we are here to help. One of the best ways forward is to sit down with someone who understands the possibilities and to make a plan. Contact me now if you would like to discuss what you can do to make the future easier.

Creating THE Folder – your financial snapshot

By Robin Beven - Topics: power of attorney, Spain, Wills
This article is published on: 27th February 2019

27.02.19

It was ten years ago that my wife, son and I (and our golden retriever) had to evacuate our house along with 15,000 other residents of La Nucia, Alicante, due to fire risk.

With forty mile-an-hour winds, the fire was fast approaching; we grabbed two suitcases of necessities, computer and personal documents case – that was about all we could fit into the car.

Fortunately, we returned 12 hours later and our house was still intact!

This reminded me to update my personal records because had they been lost, or worse still had I demised in the fire, my inheritors, loved ones, would have had undue strain at the most stressful time trying to deal with things. So, within a week I had updated everything in my fire-proof case and also recorded things digitally and let my executors know where all could be found.

Are you confident that all of the papers and documents you hold are not only all in order, but in equal measure, somewhere where they can be found and easily understood in the event of your demise? I know some individuals and couples who don’t know where all of the important documents relevant to their lives are.

We all spend time every year making sure the ITV for the car is sorted, house insurance and car insurance policies are up to date, tax returns are filed etc. How about putting some time aside to create a folder (let’s call it “THE Folder”) or fire-proof case where documents can be found?

So what is THE Folder?
It is a single file (physical or digital) where all important personal and financial information is kept? This allows access to these documents in the event that you are no longer around. If it is only one family member that takes the lead on the finances, it is imperative that other family members or executors know where to locate things.

So what should be in THE Folder?
Financial documents such as:
• Birth, marriage and divorce certificates, as applicable!
• Bank account details, including online login details
• E-mail and social media account details and logins
• Life assurance policies
• Funeral plan policy
• Pension documentation and statements
• Investment documentation and statements
• Wills (Spanish, UK, etc)
• House ownership deeds

THE Folder can be very simple, and I always suggest contact details for each of the relevant assets should be marked up as well. Also, make sure that when THE Folder is complete, you sit down together and explain all of the information it contains.

Is it worth the effort?
At a time of loss it can be stressful enough, without having to try to piece together the deceased’s financial affairs. This can be a really difficult time for family members, even more so if your support network, typically children, is back home in the UK.

However, preparing THE Folder is much more than just avoiding stress; if you leave behind an administrative nightmare, you could delay access to inheritors’ funds and potentially cost a small fortune in legal fees.

Which is best physical or digital?
This comes down to personal preference but I’d suggest both if possible. A digital file listing all your assets can be accessed by inheritors but, of course, there are original documents like wills, birth & marriage certificates to consider, hence, a fire-proof case.

An electronic file can be stored on your main computer, in the cloud or on an external hard drive. Make sure everyone knows how to access the computer, cloud or hard drive though!

A physical folder keeps all of the important information together, but make sure it is large enough to keep everything together. I’ve known one client 20 years, now elderly, and throughout have been unable to persuade her to use anything other than plastic bags! I even bought her two shiny new folders and volunteered to help her organise things. At least, when she declared her Modelo 720 (Overseas Assets Declaration) in 2013 this was half the job done!

How often should THE Folder be reviewed?
Firstly, note when it was created and last reviewed so that anyone using it knows. Then reviewing the THE Folder on an annual basis should be sufficient or, of course, whenever a significant change occurs which you consider materially important. Again, be sure to tell someone about it! There is little point going to the effort of creating such a folder if no one knows of its existence or where to find it.

Incidentally, along with my sister, I’m power of attorney (POA) holder to our mother that includes financial and health & welfare. It actually took months to record everything because of the added burden of having to write to all – as in the financial documents list above – with certified copy POA’s.

Please let me know if you would like a digital version of THE Folder that is printable as well.

As a British citizen living in France who can look after my financial affairs if I become incapacitated?

By Tony Delvalle - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Trusts, United Kingdom, Wills
This article is published on: 14th December 2018

14.12.18

There has been a huge rise in the number of lasting powers of attorney set up as dementia and Alzheimer’s have become the biggest cause of death.

Power of attorney arrangements allow an individual’s financial and health affairs to be looked after by someone else, the attorney, if they lose mental capacity in the future.

Several million “lasting” agreements have been registered since 2008, when they replaced “enduring” power of attorneys, amid concerns that the rules were too easy to abuse. There are two types of agreement – one covering finances and property, and another for health and welfare. Finance and property is far more popular.

The sharp rise in new agreements – which are set up on average when the donor is 75 – comes as the Office for National Statistics reveals deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s accounted for almost one in eight deaths in 2015 – a total of 61,686 people – overtaking heart disease as Britain’s biggest killer. It is steadily on the increase.

Many people are still exposed as the majority of people have not appointed a power of attorney. It is possible for someone to take control of your financial or welfare decisions after an individual becomes mentally incapable, this can be a lengthy and complicated process with extra cost, which can cause distress at an already difficult time.

Without power of attorney, friends and family have to retrospectively apply to the Court of Protection and prove why they should assume responsibility. This process incurs court fees and can take up to 16 weeks, leaving money locked into accounts until a decision is made. Add to this an international dimension and it is certainly a complicated problem.

As a British citizen in France you can do either a UK lasting power of attorney or a French mandat de protection future. The choice between which one is best will depend where you intend to live now and the future and where is the main part of your estate.

Let’s look at the UK and French legal systems available in cases of incapacity. The two different types of lasting powers of attorney in case of incapacity in England are Health and Welfare, and Property and Financial, whereas in France there is only one the mandat de protection future.

UK Health and Welfare covers

  • Daily routine
  • Moving into a care home
  • Life sustaining treatment

UK Property and Financial covers

  • Managing bank or building society account
  • Collecting benefits or a pension
  • Selling their home

French Mandat de protection future covers all aspects of a persons financial and health well being.

1) As a British citizen living in France, which law would govern the administration of your estate in case of incapacity?
– French law will be applicable under the provisions of the Hague Convention

2) What does French Law use to protect people from incapacity? The Mandat de protection future is one choice and covers all aspects of a persons financial and health well being.
* Trusteeship
* Guardianship

3) Could you prepare for a physical or mental incapacity by appointing somebody you trust to administer your estate, pay your debts, manage your income in France?
Yes of course.

4) Would that power of attorney be applicable and enforceable abroad?
Yes it would be efficient in most countries and in 100% of the countries who ratified the Hague Convention such as England and Wales. In other words you could prepare a LPA or mandat de protection future and both should be applicable.

5) Does the French power of attorney have a limited scope? Can the attorney sign a deed of sale on your behalf?
a) Notarial mandate (notarial deed extend the power of the guardians up to the possibility of selling the estate)
b) Mandate not supervised by the Notaire (mere administration by an appointed trustee + the Judge)

So both are legal and which one is best for you may depend on a number of factors. What your assets are, where they are held and in what way, jointly, individually, what you want from them, inheritance planning etc.

The most important thing is to do something. Taking good legal and financial advice before you do to see what is best for you and avoid potential future problems when you least need them is imperative.

Inheritance Planning in France

By Sue Regan - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Le Tour de Finance, Wills
This article is published on: 3rd August 2018

03.08.18

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of our demise, very few people actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary.

The basic rule is, if you are resident in France, you are considered also to be domiciled in France for inheritance purposes and your worldwide estate becomes taxable in France, where the tax rates depend upon the relationship to your beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is no inheritance tax between spouses and the allowance between a parent and a child is reasonably generous, currently €100,000 per child, per parent. For anything left to other beneficiaries, the allowances are considerably less. In particular, for step-children and other non-related beneficiaries, the allowance is only €1,594 and the tax rate on anything above that is an eye-watering 60%!

There are strict rules on succession and children are considered to be ‘protected heirs’ and so are entitled to inherit a proportion of each 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, then three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

You are free to pass on the rest of your estate (the disposable part) to whoever you wish through a French will and, in the absence of making a will, if you have a surviving spouse, he/she would be entitled to 25% of your estate.
You may also be considered domiciled in your ‘home country’ and if so, this could cause some confusion, since your home country may also have the right to charge succession taxes on your death. However, France has a number of Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) with other countries covering inheritance. In such a case, the DTT will set out the rules that apply (basically, ‘which’ country has the right to tax ‘what’ assets).

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK, specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country.

Therefore, for a UK national who is resident in France, who has retained a property in the UK (and does not own any other property outside of France), the situation would be that:
• any French property, plus his/her total financial assets, would be taxed in accordance with French law; and

• the UK property would be taxed in accordance with UK law, although in theory, the French notaire can take this asset into account when considering the fair distribution of all other assets to any ‘protected heirs’ (i.e. children).

If a DTT covering inheritance does not exist between France and the other country, with which the French resident person has an interest, this could result in double taxation, if the ‘home’ country also has the right to tax the person’s estate.
Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:
• how to protect the survivor; and
• how to mitigate the potential French inheritance taxes for other beneficiaries.

European Succession Regulation No. 650/2012
Many of you will no doubt have heard about the EU Succession Regulations that came into effect in 2015 whereby the default situation is that it is the law of your place of habitual residence that applies to your estates. However, you can elect for the inheritance law of your country of nationality to apply to your estate by specifying this in a French will. This is effectively one way of getting around the issue of ‘protected heirs’ for some expats living in France.

However, the UK opted out of the Regulations and therefore, it is not yet certain how effective the EU Regulations will be until there have been some test cases. I would always recommend that you discuss this in more detail with a notaire who can advise you on the subject of French wills.

If, after taking the advice of a notaire, it transpires that this is the best course of action for you to achieve your inheritance objectives, it is important to note that the French inheritance tax rules will still apply. Therefore, even though you have the freedom to decide who inherits your estate, this will not reduce the potential inheritance tax liability on your chosen beneficiaries, which, as mentioned above, could potentially be very high for a step-child. Hence, there will still be a need to shelter financial assets from French inheritance taxes.

Inheritance planning for French residency can be very complex, especially where there are children from previous relationships. This is often the starting point of my discussions with a prospective client. Most couples with children that I come across want their spouse or partner to inherit everything upon first death and for the children to inherit on second death. This isn’t possible under standard French Succession law, but it can be achieved by putting in place strategic planning, which is something on which we can provide advice.

If you would welcome a confidential discussion about your own inheritance planning, the mitigation of inheritance taxes for your chosen beneficiaries or a general chat about your overall financial situation, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at sue.regan@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 67 24 90 95.

In addition, you can meet me and other members of the Spectrum team at the Tour de Finance, which is once again coming to the stunning Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles 11300. This year’s event will take place on Friday 5th October 2018. Places are by reservation only and it is always well attended so book your place early by giving me a call or dropping me an email. Our speakers will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

Brexit
Financial Markets
Assurance Vie
Pensions/QROPS
French Tax Issues
Currency Exchange

So, if you are concerned about your investments and pensions in a post-Brexit world why not join us at this very popular event where you can meet the team in person and listen to a number of industry experts in the world of financial advice.

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 at www.spectrum-ifa.com/spectrum-ifa-client-charter/

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 to mitigate the effects of French taxes.

Preparing ‘THE’ folder

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Italy, Wills
This article is published on: 10th April 2018

10.04.18

Living in a foreign country is never easy, but have you thought how complicated it would be for your family if you die suddenly?

I am writing this E-zine after my weekly food trip to the Mercato Trionfale in Rome.  I believe it to be the largest indoor market in Rome.  It certainly has a massive choice of fruit, veg, meats, fish and much more.  For any foodies out there, it is well worth a visit.  However, my motivations for going this particular morning were not necessarily the food, but to go and have a natter with the people on the ‘bancarelle’.  As is the norm at markets you tend to have your favourite stalls and you get to know the people and whilst buying the groceries you can stop and put the world to rights, talk about the weather etc.   I love it because it is a break from the everyday routine and it provides me with that connection with people outside work.

So, when I got a call from a lawyer recently to tell me that one of my clients had died, (after a tragic and prolonged illness) I felt I had to go and have a dose of that life infusion once again.

This E-zine is never an easy one to write but I like to throw it out there once a year because I think its important.  Ensuring that your papers are in order in the event of your sudden death is incredibly important when living in another country.  It will provide you with peace of mind that your loved ones will not have too much difficulty in administering your estate, and your family  will be thankful that you did it for them.

The big problem is that as ‘stranieri’ we often have documents spread across multiple locations.  The office, a house in another country, with family members and in that old box that no-one dare look in.

The purpose of this Ezine is to outline a proven way of organizing your affairs to reduce stress in the event of your death.

So what is THE folder?

It is a single file (digital or physical) where you keep all of your important personal and financial information together. It allows easy access to these documents in the event that you’re no longer around to help. It is really important to have it in place where one family member takes the lead on the family finances (as I do in our household). That includes paying bills, managing accounts and storing documents.

Is it worth the effort?

Well, I think it is worth the effort. A time of loss can be stressful enough without having to try and piece together the deceased’s financial affairs. This can be a really difficult time for family members.

However, preparing THE folder is much more than avoiding stress; if you leave behind a administrative nightmare you could delay access to inheritors’ access to funds and potentially cost a small fortune in legal fees.

To give you an example of this, the UK Department of Work and Pensions estimate that there is currently more than £400 million sitting in unclaimed pensions pots in the UK.

Which is best…..physical or digital?

This comes down to personal preference. It can be done by either creating an electronic file that survivors can access in the event of death. This file can then be stored on your main computer, in the cloud or on an external hard drive. Alternatively you can use a physical folder to keep all of the important information together.

For what it’s worth, I decided to do both when building mine because my wife prefers paper and so is happier with hard copies of everything. I prefer digital. I have also shared the digital folder with some trusted family members.

Birth, marriage and divorce

  • Personal birth certificate
  • Marriage licence
  • Divorce papers
  • Birth certificate/adoption papers for minor children

Life insurance and retirement

  • Life insurance policy documents (including beneficiary nomination forms)
  • Details of any employer death in service benefits
  • Personal pension documents
  • Employer pension details
  • Annuity documents
  • Details of any entitlement to state pensions

Bank accounts

  • List of bank accounts with account numbers, login details, passwords etc
  • Details of any credit cards
  • Details of safe deposit boxes

Assets

  • Property, land and cemetery deeds
  • Timeshare ownership
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle ownership documents
  • Stock certificates, brokerage accounts, investment platform details, online investment account details
  • Details of holdings of premium bonds, government bonds, investment bonds
  • Partnership and corporate operating/ownership agreements (including offshore companies)

Liabilities

  • Mortgage details
  • Proof of debts owed

Details of gifts

  • Dates and amounts/values (potentially helpful when calculating any inheritance tax liability)

Income sources

  • Make a listing of all your sources of income, especially ones that your family might not know too much about
  • Employer details
  • A copy of your most recent tax return or accounts

Monthly expenses

(so they can be maintained if necessary or cancelled if not. Essentially list the fixed costs which would need to continue after death)

  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Rent/mortgage
  • Loans
  • Subscriptions/memberships

Email and social media account details

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter,etc……..

Essentials

  • Will/testament + details of the legal firm that helped create it, if applicable
  • Instruction letter
  • Trust documents
  • Burial/cremation wishes

Contact details

  • List of names and contact numbers for: Financial adviser, doctor, lawyer/solicitor, accountant, insurance broker,

How often should ‘THE’ folder be reviewed?

Firstly, it is sensible to note the date that it was last reviewed so that anyone using it has an idea of how up-to-date the details are.

Going forward, reviewing the file on an annual basis should be sufficient.

Online passwords

If you are not comfortable keeping these in your folder, consider using a password management program. A password manager allows you to save all account usernames and passwords in one place. They are then protected using one master key. There a number of them available. I personally use LastPass – www.lastpass.com

This might be a step too far for you given the data breaches that seem to be happening almost daily, notably Facebook. I appreciate that and if you are not comfortable in using such an app then its important to have a physical record some where that can be accessed in the event of your death.

And finally…

Be sure to tell someone about it. There is little point going to the effort of creating such a folder if know one knows of its existence/where to find it…..

Wills for Expats in France

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Wills
This article is published on: 1st March 2018

01.03.18

If you have been reading the news recently you will know that a legal battle is about to start between the wife of the much beloved deceased French Rock Star Johnny Hallyday and his two children from his previous relationships, Laura Smet and David Hallyday. Johnny Hallyday’s children will reportedly contest the decision in his will to leave all his property and artistic rights to his widow Laeticia and their two adopted daughters. Whilst many of us do not have the same level of wealth as Johnny Hallyday, this case does highlight the issues around proper legal wills and more especially in situations where one has assets in more than one country.

Why is it important to have a will?
No one is legally required to have a will; however, most people want to be able to leave instructions on how their assets should be handled in the event of their death. A will is a legal document allowing you to communicate what you would like to happen to your personal possessions after you die. When you purchase a high value, physical asset, such as a house, it becomes even more important to be able to decide who would receive such assets should something happen to you.

If you are resident in France and do not have a valid will in place, then your property would be shared out according to the French rules of intestacy, granting automatic inheritance rights to any children you may have had, your surviving spouse, or to other relatives in the absence of a surviving spouse or child. If you do not have children and are not married or in a civil partnership, your assets would go to your nearest relative.

Do I need to re-do my English will now that I have bought a property in France?
If you have bought a property in France and not updated your UK will it would be advisable to speak to a UK cross border specialist who would be able to advise on whether your existing English will is suitable, or whether it may need replacing or updating in any way.

An English will – if properly drafted and executed in accordance with the UK Wills act of 1837 – would be recognised in France. France has signed the 1961 Hague Convention concerning wills and therefore recognises wills that are valid under UK law. Your French assets could therefore be dealt with together with your English assets under a carefully drafted English will, however this is not recommended in every case and you should seek proper legal advice to ensure that this would be the best solution in your personal circumstances.

When drafting a new will, it is important to inform your lawyer or notaire of the existence of any previous wills in any other country, to avoid revoking a will you have already made in the other country. They would be able to assist you in drafting a new will which takes into consideration any other wills specifically dealing with property in another country.

Do I need to do a French will?
This will depend on your individual circumstances and you should always seek professional advice from a properly qualified lawyer experienced in dealing with cross-border matters. “The inheritance and tax laws of the two countries are very different and each case needs to be examined individually before making a decision” says Matthew Cameron, Partner at Ashtons Legal, specialist in French law and cross-border legal issues. For example, whilst trusts are used very frequently in UK wills, they can cause all kinds of additional administrative and filing obligations in French law. A UK testator usually appoints executors to administer his/her estate after death and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. In French law the notary is responsible for distributing the estate and assets can be held “jointly” or in “indivision” until the estate is wound up.
You should also note that under French law you cannot leave your estate to whomever you wish. The children have priority over the estate and the surviving spouse is only entitled to a fraction of the whole amount. So whilst you can, in a French will, give certain assets to friends and relatives, you cannot override French inheritance laws in the terms of your will.

I have heard that I can have English law apply to my French will is this true?
The European Succession Regulation 650/2012, also known as ‘Brussels IV’, which came into force on 17 August 2015, allows one law to apply to the whole of the deceased’s estate regardless of the location of the asset. International private law states that French law applies to immovable real estate assets situated in France and English law applies to real estate assets situated in England. Under this regulation the laws of the country in which a person is habitually resident at their death will apply to them unless they have made a declaration during their lifetime. This means that if you wish to elect for the law of your nationality to apply to the disposal of your estate, and for it to be recognised in France, it must be written into your will. However, the inverse cannot apply as the UK opted out of this EU regulation, so only English law can apply to an English estate. As Caroline Jeanson, notaire in Bordeaux who worked for over 12 years with English speaking clients in the Duras area, said “I have never yet, since the Regulation was enacted, advised a British national resident in France to opt for English law in their French will”. Whilst in theory you can choose which law will govern how you leave your assets, this will not avoid French inheritance tax. Under French tax law, if you leave your assets to someone who is not a direct blood relative, there can be substantial tax consequences. That beautiful chateau you own would probably have to be sold to settle the tax liability.

Do I need to do a will with a French notaire?
Strictly speaking you do not need to go to a French notary to write your will. You can do a hand written will called a “Testament Olographe” (holographic will) which is perfectly valid under French law. There is no legal requirement for it to be in the French language, it does not need to be witnessed nor does it have to be registered anywhere, however it is advisable to have it registered with the Central Wills Registry (Fichier Central des Dispositions de Dernières Volontés) which would enable any notary to access it. In any case it is best to seek the advice of a French notary before drafting a will. The first consultation is free and once the notary fully understands your specific situation they would be able to advise you on how best to draft the terms of your will.

Anyone who has ever lost someone will tell you that not only is it difficult to manage emotionally, but just at this very difficult time, there are a whole range of administrative matters that have to be dealt with. If the person did not make provisions in their will it is left to their friends or loved ones to deal with their assets, causing further upset and difficulty. To avoid this and to fully understand your personal situation it is best to seek professional advice from an independent financial adviser specialised in French tax matters, a UK solicitor specialised in French law or a French notary with several years’ experience advising English speaking clients.

For any questions or to make an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Successful estate planning in France – Having a will is just the beginning

By Sean Webb - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 16th October 2017

16.10.17

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: –

  1. The capacity to transfer at death whatever assets remain to your preferred beneficiaries in proportions of your choosing
  2. In the most cost efficient and tax intelligent manner with the minimum amount of deductions
  3. 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: –

  1. 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.
  2. A change of marriage regime, typically from ‘séperation de biens’ to ‘communauté universelle’ to protect the surviving spouse
  3. 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
  4. Adoption of step children
  5. Gifts (‘donations’)
  6. 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
  7. Use of assurance vie as tax optimisation wrapper for financial assets, ideal for transmitting inheritance to distant relatives, friends or third parties
  8. Careful editing of the beneficiary clause within an assurance vie policy
  9. A strategy of dismemberment can also be applied to certain assurance vie policies.
  10. 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!