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Understanding Forced Heirship in French Inheritance Law

Updated: Jan 31

In the realm of inheritance law, Article 913 of the Civil Code holds paramount significance. This article pertains to the concept of forced heirship, a complex yet foundational principle in the settlement and distribution of estates under French law.


In this article, we will elucidate the meaning of Article 913 and delve into its implications on succession matters in France.


Forced Heirship Principle 

Article 913 outlines the principle of forced heirship, ensuring a minimum share of the deceased's estate for specific heirs known as "reserved heirs." Unlike the disposable portion (quotité disponible), which grants the testator the freedom to dispose of that part of their estate as they wish, forced heirship aims to protect the rights of certain legal heirs, namely, children, and in the absence of descendants, the surviving non-divorced spouse (refer to Article 914-1 of the Civil Code).


Calculation of Forced Heirship 

Forced heirship is calculated based on the number of children. Each child is entitled to a reserved share, and the overall forced heirship is the sum of the reserved shares of each relevant heir. The legal forced heirship for the surviving non-divorced spouse is set at ¼ of the estate.


It's crucial to note that the deceased's estate, also referred to as the "calculating mass," used to determine forced heirship, encompasses all assets existing at the time of the deceased's death, including any lifetime gifts made by the deceased.


Consequences of Article 913

It is imperative to understand that violating forced heirship can lead to legal disputes. Reserved heirs have the right to claim their share within a specific timeframe, and testamentary provisions contrary to forced heirship may be annulled or reduced. The deceased's wishes must be balanced with compliance with French inheritance laws.



In conclusion, Article 913 of the Civil Code establishes the principle of forced heirship, aiming to safeguard the rights of specific legal heirs. Grasping this provision is essential when planning an estate to ensure legal compliance.

If you have specific questions regarding forced heirship or other aspects of inheritance law, do not hesitate to consult our law firm."


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