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Hav­ing bought a sec­ond home in Brit­tany 14 years ago, my hus­band and I had a joint bank ac­count with Credit Agri­cole. Sadly, my hus­band died six months ago and I be­gan what I con­sid­ered to be the sim­ple process of trans­fer­ring the ac­count into my sole name.

The death cer­tifi­cate was ob­vi­ously the first step. I was then asked by the bank for ‘ La copie in­tré­grale du livret de famille de­funt’, which is an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment nam­ing the spouse and chil­dren. As I ex­plained, this does not ex­ist in the UK. I then had to send my mar­riage cer­tifi­cate and our three chil­dren’s birth cer­tifi­cates. By May I was still with­out a cheque book and card so on my next visit paid a visit to the bank. Un­able to see my ad­vi­sor who had been ex­tremely help­ful at first, I was sent a mes­sage to say that a copy of the funeral bill, and proof that I had paid it, was now re­quired. What on earth has that got to do with my French bank ac­count? We are now into July and no fur­ther for­ward. Chris Gam­mon Loìc Raboteau, di­rec­tor at Fran­cophile Le­gal Con­sult­ing (fran­cophile-law.com), replies: I am sorry to hear about the death of your late hus­band and the is­sues you are fac­ing in putting your French bank ac­count in or­der. When it comes to cross-bor­der suc­ces­sion mat­ters for in­ter­na­tional clients, the ad­min­is­tra­tion in France can be tricky and cum­ber­some when lo­cal bank branches, as it seems to be in your case, are not too ex­pe­ri­enced with cross-bor­der suc­ces­sion mat­ters. From ex­pe­ri­ence, French banks have their own pro­ce­dures in re­la­tion to suc­ces­sion mat­ters. To re­quest a copy of the funeral bill when the de­ceased was a non-res­i­dent is quite un­usual. The most likely doc­u­ments for a Bri­tish de­ceased who was a non-res­i­dent would be the fol­low­ing: An orig­i­nal or cer­ti­fied copy of the de­ceased’s death cer­tifi­cate ac­com­pa­nied with an of­fi­cial trans­la­tion in French. A cer­ti­fied copy of the grant of pro­bate (with the English will) or grant of let­ters of ad­min­is­tra­tion if the de­ceased died with­out a will ac­com­pa­nied by an of­fi­cial trans­la­tion in French: if your late hus­band died domi­ciled in Eng­land, English law should ap­ply to the in­her­i­tance of the French bank ac­count.

As it is a joint bank ac­count, you should be able to con­tinue us­ing it. How­ever, if the bank ac­count is in credit, half of its amount should be­long to you and the other half will be part of your late hus­band’s es­tate. So, if you are the sole ben­e­fi­ciary of your late hus­band’s es­tate, the money held in the ac­count should be passed to you.

If there are other ben­e­fi­cia­ries, their en­ti­tle­ment to the funds should be trans­ferred to the ex­ecu­tors or ad­min­is­tra­tors of the es­tate with re­spon­si­bil­ity for them to dis­trib­ute the funds to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Some banks may ask for a cer­tifi­cate stat­ing whether or not French in­her­i­tance tax (IHT) is due: if your hus­band died domi­ciled in Eng­land or Wales, the French bank ac­count will be sub­ject to IHT in Eng­land and Wales and not in France based on the dou­ble tax­a­tion treaty signed be­tween France and the UK. In some cir­cum­stances, the bank may re­quire an af­fi­davit of UK law from a solic­i­tor.

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