Succession Law glossary-France

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This glossary has been prepared for the purposes of the International Private Client Section Conference March 2016.


à titre gracieux: a gift

à titre onéreux: a transaction for consideration (ie a sale)

abattement: “nil-rate band” or tax free allowance

acheteur/acheteuse: buyer

acquéreur: buyer

acte de décès: death certificate

acte de notoriété: a deed prepared by the Notaire which sets out the family of the deceased and the beneficiaries of the estate 

acte de vente: contract of sale

action en réduction: right for a reserved heir to bring an action when the deceased has gifted more than his quotité disponible

action en retranchement: right for a child of a previous marriage or relationship to make a claim against the share of the deceased’s estate being received by the surviving spouse under the matrimonial property regime, if this share exceeds the spousal quotité disponible 
administrateur du trust: trust administrator

agent immobilier: estate agent

apostille/apostil: legalisation certificate, required on documents signed in the presence of an English Notary Public

assurance vie: life insurance

attestation immobilère: notarial document confirming to the Land Registry in France the passage of ownership of a property belonging to a deceased person


bénéficiaire: beneficiary

bien meuble: movable item

bureau des hypothèques: French Land Registry


capacité: capacity

clause d’attribution intégrale de la communauté au conjoint survivant: a clause whereby the “community” assets from a communauté regime are transferred to the surviving spouse on death

clause pénale: penalty clause in sale agreement

clause suspensive: condition included in sale agreement

code civil: the French Civil Code

code général des impôts: the French Tax Code

communauté: any type of matrimonial property regime whereby there are assets held for the “community” of the couple

communauté universelle: the most community based matrimonial property regime whereby all the assets are held for the “community” of the couple

compromis de vente: sale agreement (equivalent to an English contract for sale; signing this is roughly equivalent to exchange in England)

compte bancaire: bank account

consitutant: the settlor of a trust

contrat de mariage: marriage contract

copropriétaire: member of a copropriété ; the copropriété is the way the common parts of a building such as an apartment block are held


déclaration de succession: inheritance tax form

délai de rétractation/délai de réflexion: cooling-off period

démembrement de propriété: division of full property ownership (pleine propriété) into the strands of usus (use), fructus (fruit) and abusus (abuse – ability to sell or mortgage); normally represented by usufruit and nue-propriété

dépôt de garantie: deposit payment

domicile: residence

don manuel: a “hand to hand” gift, such as a gift of cash

donation: a lifetime gift

donation entre epoux: gift between spouses

dossier diagnostique technique: set of technical reports on the property produced by experts for the seller prior to sale

droit de préemption: pre-emption right

droits d’enregistrement: registration tax

droits de succession: inheritance tax


émoluments: notarial fees which are fixed by legislation

état civil: civil status 

état hypothécaire: French land registry search

exécuteur testamentaire: person nominated to oversee the administration of an estate (this is not the same as an English executor)


forfait mobilier: a value attributed to furniture and furnishings in the deceased’s estate (5% of the rest of the gross estate) where there has not been an inventory or a public sale

frais: costs


héritier: heir

héritier réservataire: protected or reserved heirs; i.e. a portion of the estate is reserved to them

honoraires: fees for a professional; for a notaire those fees which are freely fixed

hypothèque: mortgage


immeuble: immoveable asset, i.e. real estate

împôt: tax

incapable: someone lacking in capacity

indivision: property held as tenants in common


légataire: legatee

légataire à titre universel: legatee of a percentage of the estate, or all or a percentage of one type of asset (moveable or immoveable)

légataire particulier: specific legatee (including a cash legacy)

légataire universel: legatee of the universality of the estate (can be more than one such)

legs: legacy


mairie: town hall or municipal offices

majeur(e): an adult

mandataire: attorney, appointed under a power of attorney

meuble: moveable asset

meubles meublants: furniture and furnishings

mineur: a minor


notaire: French notary (lawyer qualified to deal with property transactions and inheritance matters)

nue-propriété: bare or underlying interest in property, similar to an interest in remainder; the combination of the nue-propriété and the usufruit combine to make up the pleine propriété


pleine propriété: full ownership 

plus-value: capital gain

police d’assurance: insurance policy

prêt: loan

prix: price

procuration: power of attorney

promesse de vente: preliminary contract or sale agreement can be unilatérale or synallagmatique (rare); see compromis de vente

propriétaire: owner


quotité disponible: portion of a deceased’s estate over which he has freedom to distribute as he wishes


régime matrimonial: matrimonial property regime; basis on which the property of a married person is held

rente viagère: an annuity 

réserve: portion of deceased’s estate which is reserved for inheritance by certain family members


salaire du conservateur: literally the salary of the Conservateur (the person running the relevant land registry), but in fact a land registry tax

séparation de biens: the matrimonial property regime whereby assets held in one spouse’s name belong only to that spouse

séquestre: money held in escrow, normally by the cashier at a notarial firm

société civile immobilière (SCI): French property owning company


taxe à la valeur ajoutée (TVA): value added tax

taxe d’habitation: annual tax payable by the person in occupation of a property on 1st January
taxe de publicité foncière: land registry tax

taxe foncière: annual tax payable by the owner who owns the relevant land on 1st January
testament: Will

testament authentique: Will in notarial form

testament holographe: handwritten Will

titre de propriété: title deed

tontine: clause giving rise to property being held by the owners as joint tenants

tutelle: a regime protecting a minor or an incapable adult (this is one of a variety of protection regimes)


urbanisme: local planning matters

usufruit: the right granted to someone to occupy a property ‘usus’ and receive the rents from it ‘fructus’. Similar, but not identical, to a life interest under English law


vendeur/vendeuse: seller

vente: sale
vente en viager: a sale where the buyer pays the seller a lump sum and the remainder of the purchase price is paid by a monthly sum (known as a rent – a rente viagère) for the seller’s lifetime. There are two main types of viager, namely viager occupé and viager libre. The former is where the seller remains in the property for their lifetime (or can be let out and the seller receive the income) and the latter is where the seller vacates the property on completion.

David Anderson

Solicitor and Chartered Tax Adviser Sykes Anderson Perry Limited 

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