How to retire to France without the stress?

If you are planning a move to France, it’s important to carefully consider issues such as inheritance and pensions, as well as visas. Karen, our senior advisor, gives her top tips to avoid some of the pitfalls.

Living in France after retirement is a dream of many. Making it a reality though does require some research as well as careful planning to ensure the transition to your new life is a smooth one. 

A key first step is to check your entitlement to live in France fulltime; EU/EEA citizens retain the rights to live and work in France. However, if you have a UK passport you need to meet the criteria for a long-stay visa. Click on the French government’s visa wizard for more information.  

Before committing to buy a property, ensure that you fully understand and can satisfy France’s long-stay visa criteria. 

Pension planning

Effective pension planning is similarly a key decision for your retirement. UK retirees often opt to have their state pension paid into a UK bank account to take advantage of positive currency fluctuations. Alternatively, they can have their state pensions paid into a French bank account - hopefully with CA Britline!

If you have a private pension in the UK, advance planning is essential before retiring to France as to how and when to access these funds. As a UK resident you can normally withdraw a lump sum of up to 25% tax free from your private pension when you reach 55. You may need to consider whether you want to take this before you move to France - or wait until you move and take the whole private pension pot in one go; this could be more tax efficient for you in the long run. This option is only possible if you have not touched the private pension previously. 

Pensions can be complex and it is therefore prudent to seek advice and guidance on what is the best decision for you, including potential investment options as a French resident. These choices could include an Assurance Vie.

Will & inheritance

For couples with children from existing or previous marriages, understanding France’s succession laws which protect the rights of children is essential. Strained relationships within families will sometimes result in estrangement or disinheritance. In the UK, the law will generally allow for this; in France, you cannot easily disinherit your children from your estate and it is much more complex. 

Legally, you may register a UK will with a French Notaire – a government appointed lawyer who deals with property and matrimonial transactions. Since 2021, the law obliges the Notaire to contact all of your inheritors, including all your children, in the event of your death. 

So, what are two of the possible options?

First, buy your property in France using a tontine clause.

The tontine is particularly useful for couples or multiple buyers as it determines what happens in the event of one owner’s death. For example, if your partner dies:

  1. With a tontine clause: ownership of the property is automatically transferred to you.
  2. Without a tontine in place, any children you or your spouse have will legally own a share of the property.

Ensure therefore that you include the tontine clause during the purchase transaction, as it’s not possible for a Notaire to add it later. 
Note: The tontine clause does not apply to the rest of your estate.

An alternative option is to change or modify your marriage regime in France.

A Notaire can do this and you must inform any adult children concerning the proposed changes. If someone challenges it, you must request approval from a judge. This change can help to protect your assets as well as being advantageous in terms of estate planning.

Awareness of the tax free inheritance limits is important too as they vary between children and step children.

We advise that the best way forward is to discuss with a Notaire before you purchase a property.”

CA Britline, your next step to retiring to France

If you would like to discuss your personal situation, CA Britline’s friendly team of English-speaking advisors can help you with your life and projects in France. We will be more than happy to call you: request a call back.

Do not also hesitate to check out our useful guide for anyone considering retiring to France and opening a French bank account.

We look forward to hearing from you!


First published: 07th May 2024
Image used is provided by Getty Images.