What is a Civil Solidarity Pact?
The PACS was introduced into French law in 1999 by Article 515-1 of the Civil Code.
It is a contract that allows unmarried couples to organise their life together by giving it a certain legal framework, without however establishing a family relationship, or even a bond of alliance between the partners.
What are the advantages of a PACS in terms of inheritance?
If you are an unmarried couple living in France, you can enter into a civil solidarity pact to avoid inheritance tax on the death of one of the partners.
Indeed, there is a real tax advantage for PACS partners, who are totally exempt from paying inheritance tax, just like the surviving spouse.
Likewise, you will benefit, like the surviving spouse, from an allowance of €80,724 on gifts.
If you are already involved in a PACS under foreign law, this will in principle be recognised by French law and will allow you to benefit from the same rights.
But be careful!
In matters of inheritance, your partner must be made a legatee!
Indeed, the PACS does not give rise to any inheritance rights. Drawing up a will for the benefit of your partner is therefore the sine qua non condition for being able to receive the inheritance and not pay any transfer duty. As the partners are considered as strangers with regard to inheritance law, they are not in fact heirs to each other.
By way of comparison, partners in a Civil Partnership in the UK enjoy the same rights as married people: exemption from inheritance tax, but also rights to a survivor’s pension or even rights of reservation in the case of legal devolution. This is not the case in France, where the formalities for registering and dissolving a PACS are much lighter.
In addition, the inheritance reserve of any descendants of the deceased must be taken into account when planning the estate. In any event, the beneficiary of the PACS will be in joint inheritance with the descendants, including the family home.
The surviving partner does not benefit from the right to housing which, in the event of marriage, allows the surviving spouse to remain in the family home for life. Only a temporary right to the home occupied as the main residence is granted to the surviving partner, and this for a limited period of one year after the death.
Finally, the right to preferential allocation of the home, which allows the family house or flat to be allocated as a priority in the event of marriage, is not available in the case of a PACS. A bequest to the partner is also necessary.
In order to provide optimum protection for your partner, it is therefore essential to plan your inheritance in advance by contacting your notary and using a lawyer with expertise in inheritance matters in order to provide you with the best guidance.