Joint inheritance in French law

L’indivision successorale en droit français

The objective of an inheritance file is to successfully allocate the deceased party’s property to their successors.

Following the acceptance of the inheritance by multiple heirs and/or legatees, joint ownership opens between the various persons involved before, in theory, proceeding to the division.

This joint possession includes all the property and rights of which the deceased was the owner or holder on the date of their death.

What does this mean?

Joint ownership is, by definition, the legal situation in which several people collectively own the same property.

Within the context of an inheritance being passed down, joint ownership between the various inheritors begins on the date of death. Each person becomes a joint owner, namely the owner of an abstract fraction of each asset or right making up the estate, according to their share in the estate.

Nevertheless, joint ownership has a certain accounting autonomy seeing as how it has assets, liabilities and autonomous management rules.

Joint ownership is not, however, endowed with legal personality, so that no deed can be issued in its name.

Likewise, an action directed against one of the joint owners will not impact joint ownership.

Claims for sums of money are, for their part, divisible by operation of law, so that each inheritor can only request payment of a debt for the fraction corresponding to their share.

Apart from a few exceptions (for example in the case of an obligation to do something), the same applies to inheritance debts which are also divisible in their own right.

When and how can I get out of joint ownership?

Joint ownership is theoretically not intended to last for any period of time, the division normally comes to an end by allocating private rights to the inheritors for the various assets that make up the estate.

Before this takes place, the inheritors are not, however, required to remain in joint possession.

Thus, it is quite possible for a joint owner to give or sell their undivided share to a co-joint owner or a third party, after having informed the other joint owners.

There is no obligation to terminate joint ownership. Indeed, starting the division proceedings, so that the estate is actually divided up, is actually the responsibility of the joint owners, otherwise the joint ownership will continue.

It may be that only one joint owner wishes to have a division while the others prefer to remain in joint possession.

In this case, whoever decides to leave will be able to allocate themselves their share amicably or by judicial processes, leaving the other members in joint possession.

Finally, the distribution can also be done partially.

It is thus quite possible for the co-joint-owners to request a distribution of the liquidities without asking for that of the house, for example.

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