Civil part­ner­ships in France are avail­able to both same-sex and het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples and are a good way to pro­tect cou­ples who own prop­erty, says Pierre Hoff­mann

French Property News - - Contents - Pierre Hoff­mann is a no­taire in Fer­ney-voltaire in Ain no­

The many ad­van­tages of sign­ing a civil part­ner­ship in France

Un­mar­ried cou­ples liv­ing in France miss out on a num­ber of tax and so­cial se­cu­rity ad­van­tages. So if you don’t in­tend to tie the knot or are un­able to do so, it might be worth en­ter­ing a civil union with your part­ner in or­der to of­fer each other some le­gal pro­tec­tion.

The best way to do this is to adopt the French equiv­a­lent of a civil part­ner­ship, a for­mal writ­ten agree­ment known as a PACS ( pacte civil de sol­i­dar­ité). The cost of draw­ing up a PACS with a no­tary is around €270 plus a reg­is­tra­tion tax of €125 plus VAT.

Who is el­i­gi­ble? A PACS is avail­able to both same-sex and het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples of any na­tion­al­ity aged 18 or over. Both part­ners must be liv­ing in France, un­less one of the part­ners is a French na­tional in which case it is pos­si­ble for the other part­ner to live abroad and to com­plete the PACS abroad also.

A PACS is for­bid­den be­tween fam­ily in di­rect line, such as a par­ent or grand­par­ent and off­spring, or be­tween rel­a­tives up to and in­clud­ing the third de­gree, such as aunts, cousins, sib­lings and half-sib­lings. A union be­tween in-laws is also pro­hib­ited. Nor is a PACS al­lowed if ei­ther part­ner is al­ready mar­ried. A per­son’s ca­pac­ity to con­clude a PACS will be sub­ject to their na­tional law.

What if I’m al­ready in a civil part­ner­ship? If you en­tered a civil part­ner­ship in the UK, this will be recog­nised in France as be­ing equiv­a­lent to a PACS. Sim­i­larly, if you move to the UK your PACS sta­tus will be legally recog­nised as a civil part­ner­ship – but only if you are a same-sex cou­ple as there is no equiv­a­lent in UK law to a het­ero­sex­ual PACS.

How do I sign a PACS ? A French no­taire can give you full de­tails about this sta­tus and draw up the cer­tifi­cate. Once signed, the PACS must be reg­is­tered by a joint dec­la­ra­tion at the district court where the part­ners es­tab­lish that they are both res­i­dent in France. If the PACS is con­cluded with a no­taire, he or she will col­lect this dec­la­ra­tion and keep an au­then­tic copy. Be care­ful though; if the PACS is signed in court, it will not keep any orig­i­nal or copy.

What are my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties? Part­ners must give each other ma­te­rial help and as­sis­tance. If noth­ing has been drawn up in the con­tract, the sup­port must be pro­por­tional to the re­spec­tive means of the part­ners. The part­ners share re­spon­si­bil­ity for their cost of liv­ing, in­clud­ing ex­penses re­lat­ing to food, car main­te­nance, hous­ing costs etc. With some ex­cep­tions, the part­ner is gen­er­ally also jointly li­able for the other party’s debts.

What about health­care? PACS sta­tus means you ben­e­fit from health in­sur­ance cover granted to your part­ner if they are em­ployed or run­ning a French busi­ness. Even if you en­tered a civil part­ner­ship in the UK, you will ben­e­fit from the same rights.

What about our home? You can choose how you want your prop­erty own­er­ship to be re­garded. Un­less other­wise stip­u­lated, the part­ner­ship will au­to­mat­i­cally be based on the ‘ sé­pa­ra­tion de bi­ens’ sys­tem. This means that each part­ner re­mains the ex­clu­sive owner of all prop­erty pur­chased in their sole name, be it be­fore or af­ter sign­ing the PACS. There­fore prop­erty re­mains owned sep­a­rately by each part­ner.

How­ever, you do have the op­tion to stip­u­late in the ti­tle deed that the own­er­ship will be split be­tween you and your part­ner, be it 50/50, 75/25 or in some other way that re­flects the way the prop­erty is fi­nanced. This is known as ‘ in­di­vi­sion’ and means that this par­tic­u­lar prop­erty owned af­ter you sign the PACS is con­sid­ered to be jointly owned, who­ever fi­nanced the pur­chase.

And if one part­ner dies? While en­ter­ing into a PACS in­creases the pro­tec­tion af­forded to the sur­viv­ing part­ner, it also needs to be ac­com­pa­nied by other in­her­i­tance plan­ning mea­sures. The sur­viv­ing part­ner has a one-year tem­po­rary right of use on the flat or the house used as a pri­mary res­i­dence, but af­ter this pe­riod, this right ceases and the sit­u­a­tion of the part­ner can be­come del­i­cate.

So to leave prop­erty to your part­ner, it is es­sen­tial to write a will. If you have no chil­dren, you can be­queath all your es­tate to your part­ner since there are no pro­tected heirs. How­ever, if one or both part­ners have chil­dren, one part­ner can­not in­herit the en­tire es­tate as French law guar­an­tees each child a share of in­her­i­tance, known as the ‘ re­serve hérédi­taire’.

Be aware too that the par­ents of the de­ceased part­ner, if still alive, may ap­ply to re­cover a pro­por­tion of their de­ceased child’s prop­erty.

And in­her­i­tance tax? By en­ter­ing into a PACS, the sur­viv­ing part­ner ben­e­fits from an in­her­i­tance tax ex­emp­tion on any prop­erty left by their part­ner. Other­wise the in­her­i­tance tax rate is 60%. So, if you are not mar­ried, a PACS is an ef­fec­tive way of avoid­ing in­her­i­tance taxes to the sur­viv­ing part­ner.

What hap­pens with in­come tax? Part­ners in a PACS are taxed to­gether on their per­sonal in­come. They fill out a sin­gle tax form ev­ery year and are jointly bound to the pay­ment. This also ap­plies to peo­ple who have en­tered into a civil part­ner­ship in the UK.

PACS sta­tus al­lows you to ben­e­fit from health in­sur­ance cover granted to your part­ner if they are em­ployed or run­ning a busi­ness in France

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