Wills 6 : France or Here

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Q: Mama was born a French citizen.  For many years, she lived in New York, where she was secretary to a senior partner in a law firm.  During that time, Mama became a United States citizen.  Upon retirement, Mama returned to France, leaving most of her property here.  I stayed in California.

Mama’s will says, ‘I hereby declare that I elect that this Will shall be admitted to original probate in the State of New York and shall be construed and regulated by the laws of the State of New York, and that the validity and effect thereof shall be determined by such laws.’

Under the will, I receive about a third of the assets  – the Paris apartment, its contents and some money – and the rest goes to a dear friend.  Under French law, despite the will, I would be entitled to fully one half of the assets – a one-half ‘forced share’.  What will happen?

A: Under section 3-5.1 of New York’s Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, your mother could elect to have the disposition of her property situated in New York governed by the laws of New York.  Clearly, she did – so the effect, interpretation, revocation and alteration of any disposition is determined by the law of New York.

In particular, New York law governs the disposition of your mother’s property located here.  Her estate is able to escape the forced-heirship laws of France, so beneficial to you, even though your mother was domiciled there at death.  You are limited to what she left you in the will.

New York has a long-standing and substantial relationship with your mother.  When she moved to France, she apparently retained her United States citizenship – and transferred merely her residence back to France, but not the location of her financial affairs.  France’s contact with this estate is merely as your mother’s domicile at death.  The friend probably will succeed in arguing against a French forced share.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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