The usufructuary has the right to enjoyment and use of the property but it is not the owner.
What does usufruct mean?
Let us take a house as an example. You need to remember that a right of ownership gives an owner three types of prerogatives:
- the right to use the property (i.e. live in it),
- the right to receive income from the property (i.e. rent it),
- the right to dispose of the property (i.e. sell it).
But an owner can divide these prerogatives into two groups:
- on the one hand there is the usufruct which includes the right to use the property and receive income from it
- on the other there is the bare ownership which includes the right to dispose of it.
The right of ownership is therefore a combination of the usufruct and the bare ownership .
Usufruct is most commonly for life, i.e. is extinguished with the death of the person holding it. It may also be constituted for a set term; this is known as temporary usufruct. The person who holds the right to use the property and receive income from it is known as the usufructuary while the person who has the right to dispose of the property is known as the bare owner.
You should not confuse usufruct with the right to use and occupy. The right to use and occupy is strictly personal and limited to living in a property (without the right to let it). Usufruct is a property right that may apply both to real estate and movables (e.g. portfolio of shares).
How to calcultate usufruct?
If, for example :
- the usufructuary and the bare owner agree to sell the property, how should the proceeds of the sale be divided between them ?
- your parents give you the bare ownership of an apartment, what value will the authorities tax you on ?
The question of valuing usufruct and bare ownership (the two are linked, of course) is therefore very important. The rules that apply to gifts , inheritance , sales, exchanges, equity investments, etc. are set by law.
Valuing is done by applying a scale that takes the life expectancy of the usufructuary into consideration because usufruct only exists during the lifetime of the person who holds it.
|Age of the usufructuary||Value of the usufruct as a percentage
of the value of the full ownership
|Up to 20 years||90%|
|21 to 30 years||80%|
|31 to 40 years||70%|
|41 to 50 years||60%|
|51 to 60 years||50%|
|61 to 70 years||40%|
|71 to 80 years||30%|
|81 to 90 years||20%|
|Over 91 years||10%|
A special rule exists for set-term usufruct (temporary usufruct) that ignores the age of the usufructuary. In this situation, usufruct is estimated as 23% of the value of the full ownership for each complete ten-year period.
Do not forget that the tax authorities value the right to use and occupy at 60% of the value of the life usufruct.