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
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