According to INSEE, in France in 2019 there were 800,000 blended families, ie made up of a couple living with at least one child from a previous partnership. If this family pattern is becoming more common in society, what happens when one of the spouses dies? How do you organize yourself in inheritance matters?
The rights of the surviving spouse
The more members a family has, the more complicated the succession is likely to be. In a blended family, the most difficult thing is not to harm anyone involved. The law then protects the surviving spouse. Only married couples are affected.
According to Article 757 of the Civil Code, in the event of the death of your husband, you can acquire a quarter of his property if your children are not all from the same bed. In addition, according to article 764 of the Civil Code, the surviving spouse also benefits from a right to occupy and exploit the main residence if it belonged to the deceased. However, if you think, for example, that your loved one is already in a comfortable situation and you want to leave more to your children, it is possible to express your desire in an authentic will, in the presence of two notaries or a notary and by two witnesses. Then it must be stated that you are depriving your spouse of the right to live and use the apartment.
In the absence of marriage, the protection bestowed on your other half is far more tenuous. In principle, the surviving PACS partner only has a right of residence in the accommodation for one year after death if it only belonged to his partner. The partner has no rights. In order to be able to bequeath property to your partner, go to a notary to record this in your will.
children, legitimate heirs
When a person dies, their children are immediately designated as primary heirs. In other words, they cannot be disinherited and necessarily have access to a portion of their deceased parent’s inheritance. This is called the hereditary reserve. It applies to each child in the form of a share. If you have one child, they inherit half of your wealth, if you have two, they inherit two-thirds of your wealth, and if you have three or more, their share is three-fourths. Do you have several children from different unions? Whether you are divorced and have rebuilt your life, cohabiting, in a registered partnership, or married, you all have the same rights after your death.
Your spouse’s children will not become your heirs as they benefit from their biological parents’ estate. If you consider them your own flesh, it is possible to adopt your stepchildren so that they receive the same treatment as your own. A simple adoption does not change the original lineage. In other words, the adopted child “gains” a new parent. He can thus access the inheritance rights and property of his adoptive parents as well as those of his biological parents. The other solution is to go through the will, knowing that you can only leave them the part of the inheritance that did not go to your own children (we are talking about the available part). Again, let a notary inform you about how to carry out such procedures.
In order to be successful in the succession, many people decide to make a donation during their lifetime. In particular, married couples may choose to allow the future surviving spouse to have the usufruct of all or part of their property. But beware of this practice, which, while based on good intentions, can cause trouble later. If, on the death of the legatee, their loved ones are not getting along with their stepchildren and the assets are things like life insurance policies or bank accounts, the usufructuary could indeed benefit greatly from those funds, at the risk that the children never do will touch their heritage…
A will can then make it possible to be more precise and protective for all members of this blended family.