Under French law you cannot leave assets to whom you wish – such as your spouse - if you have children. French inheritance law enforces the rights of children to inherit more than most countries – eg 50 per cent of the estate to a single child, 66 per cent between two-children or 75 per cent split equally between three or more children.
The rest – the “unreserved portion” can be left to whomever the owner wishes. So whilst property and wealth held in France may not automatically be left to anyone you fancy just because you say so in your will, but from August 2015 new European Inheritance Laws mean that things are changing. This will give European nationals the chance to opt for the succession law of their country of nationality.
So with a correctly drawn-up will, it will become possible for British nationals to use British rules and leave their assets to whomever they wish. But bear in mind that inheritance taxes do not change (seek specialist advice) and – and this is the big but – because the UK opted out of the new European rules (true at the time of writing, April 2015) the new rules will only apply to resident owners of property, not non-residents.
Therefore forethought and planning needs to go into inheritance planning when you decide how you will buy the property (eg as a company or en tontine?) if you have particular wishes, especially with regard to your current spouse, and do take expert advice.