French inheritance law : Order of heirs and scale of inheritance rights in France

Updated on Wednesday 14 June 2023

The people concerned by your inheritance; aren’t necessarily those people you may think of. Determining the order of heirs, shall allow you to establish a transmission of property through inheritance.


The heirs and the order of inheritance

If the deceased didn’t write a will:

the transmission of the inheritance is carried out, according to the order of the heirs set by law.

If the deceased wasn’t married:

  • If the deceased had children, the entire inheritance belongs to them (or their descendants if they themselves have passed away).
  • If the person had no child or brother and sister, his parents shall each receive half of the inheritance.
  • If he had no children but brothers and sisters, his parents receive a quarter of the inheritance each and the brothers and sisters shall receive the remaining half (three quarters, if one of the parents has passed away or the entire sum, if both have passed away).
  • If the person didn’t have children, parents, brothers or sisters (living or represented), the inheritance is divided into two equal parts: one half for the maternal family, the other for the paternal family. In each of the two families, the closest heirs inherit: the uncles or aunts first, then the first cousins.

In the case of a widow or a widower:

  • If the deceased had children, the inheritance is divided between the surviving spouse and the children.
  • In the absence of a child, the spouse inherits the inheritance, which he shall share with the father and mother of the deceased, if they are still alive.
  • If both have passed away, he inherits the entire sum.

Careful! Civil union partners are not heirs:

In order to possess inheritance rights, the person must be mentioned in the will. The civil union partner or spouse, is exempt from inheritance tax.

If the deceased wrote a will:

Through the will, the deceased was able to distribute his wealth but also choose his legatees, therefore modifying the order of the heirs, set by law.

  • If the deceased had no children and wasn’t married, he was able to pass on all of his inheritance, to the people of his choice.
  • If the deceased had children (whether they were married or not), their freedom is somewhat restrained, since they can’t disown them.
  • If the deceased was married without children, the spouse can’t be disowned.

The role of notary and the designation of heirs

The notary identifies the persons who shall succeed the deceased and their inheritance rights. If need be, he can use a genealogist to help him in this task.

Inheritance: what is the tax reduction?

Rates of Inheritance rights and the applicable donation online

Net taxable share after allowance

Taxation rate

Up to €8,072 


Between €8,072 and €12,109


Between €15,932 and €552,324


Between €552,325 and €902,838


Between €902,839 and €1,805,677


Above €1,805,677


Rates for inheritance and applicable taxes for other inheritance and donations


Taxation rate 

Between parents and until the 4th degree of relationship 55% 
Between parents and beyond the 4th degree of relationship60%

Rates for inheritance and applicable taxes for brothers and sisters

Net taxable share after allowance 

Taxation rate 
Up to €24,430 35%
Above €24,430 45%