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Bequeath your heritage to a SPA-type animal protection association

Whatever the reasons that motivate you – family conflicts, desire to support the animal cause, to perpetuate your values ​​after your death, … – you plan to bequeath your heritage to an association for the protection of animals. There is no minimum amount for a bequest. What does the law allow you to do? What are the steps to take for such a project to succeed? We answer all the questions you may have.

Legal constraints

In France, you cannot give what you want to whoever you want in a totally free way. But, in the contemporary world where mobility is greater, things can get complicated:

  • When the country where the death takes place differs from that of his residence,
  • When the country where the death takes place differs from that of his nationality,
  • When movable and/or immovable property belonging to the deceased is located in a country other than that of his nationality or residence.

These are so-called foreign elements which lead to qualifying a succession as international. This is also the case when heirs are foreigners. The first step in an international succession will consist in determining the applicable law:

  • To real estate, which is that of the place where the real estate is located,
  • Movable property (sums of money, bank accounts, furniture, etc.), which is that of the last domicile of the deceased.

Since August 17, 2015 (EU regulation n° 650/2012 of July 4, 2012), the entire succession is subject to the law of the last residence of the deceased, whether or not you have property or relatives in that country. If this reform aims to simplify the rules within Europe, it can also be a source of complications. If the deceased resided in France at the time of his death, it is a French notary who deals with the succession. But if the deceased was domiciled abroad at the time of his death, the estate is only processed by a French notary if it includes real estate located in France.

Importance and limits of the will

To better control one’s inheritance and direct the legacy of one’s heritage, it is generally advisable to write a will.

There are three main forms of wills:

  • the holographic will written by you without a notary. It must be handwritten, dated and signed. Partial or total writing on a computer or typewriter leads to its cancellation,
  • the authentic will which involves the reading aloud of your last will by a notary in front of two witnesses. You and the three other people present sign the document then kept by the notary,
  • the mystical testament is like the authentic will except that there is no reading aloud. You write it up, sign it and place it in a sealed envelope in the presence of the notary and the two witnesses.

A will is registered by a notary in the Central File of Last Will Dispositions (FCDDV).

In France, if a will allows you to define an heir as an association for the protection of animals, the law protects the legal heirs and their share of the inheritance thanks to what is called the hereditary reserve, that is to say the part of the inheritance that must go to the children of the deceased or, if the deceased has no descendants, to his spouse. The available quota, the one you can freely dispose of (and therefore allocate to an association) varies according to your situation:

  • 75% of the property if you have no children but have a spouse,
  • 50% of the property if you have a child,
  • One third of the property if you have two children,
  • 25% of assets if you have three children.

You should also pay attention to writing place of the will. Indeed, in the presence of such a document, the notary must ensure that it complies with the law of the State in which it was drawn up. If, for example, the testator wrote his will in France, disinheriting his children abroad to bequeath his heritage to an association for the protection of animals, this will be void because of the rules that we have just stated. But if the will was drawn up in the United States, these provisions will in principle apply.

Indeed, it is known that the Anglo-Saxon law allows, on his death, to allocate his fortune much more freely than French law. Anglo-Saxon law makes it possible to ensure that one’s heritage is entirely transmitted to an association for the protection of animals.

If you have no children or surviving spouse (but only nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles or cousins), you are totally free, even in France, to use your assets as you see fit and therefore to bequeath it to the animal cause. Without a will, the state is named beneficiary of all your assets.

Note that a childless couple must write two separate wills, one for each member of the couple. A will written by two people is not valid.

How to make a bequest to a SPA-type animal protection association?

The animal protection association to which you wish to bequeath your assets can only be designated:

  • if it is recognized as being of public utility,
  • if it has been declared for at least 3 years,
  • if its activities are of a philanthropic, educational, scientific, social or humanitarian nature.

Associations that do not meet these conditions can only receive manual donations.

There are then three types of bequests relating to the share of the property you wish to pass on:

  • the universal legacy (it is the totality of your heritage that you bequeath),
  • the universal bequest (it is a share of your patrimony or a certain category of property that you bequeath),
  • the personal bequest (property or a sum of money are precisely indicated).

The form of the bequest and your conditions will be specified in your will. We strongly advise you to seek the help of a notary to ensure that your wishes are expressed within the framework of the law and therefore that your project will succeed. Also remember that a bequest granted for the benefit of an association or a foundation must be declared to the prefect of the department where the association has its headquarters.

It is also important to ensure the sustainability of the association to which you wish to bequeath your assets. An important organization, such as the SPA or the 30 Million Friends Foundation, provides guarantees to its benefactors and can also accompany you throughout your steps.

Appoint an animal protection foundation as universal legatee?

By appointing an animal protection foundation not subject to transfer or inheritance tax as universal legatee, you allow the foundation to benefit from part of the inheritance tax.

Indeed, if you wish to bequeath €100,000 to a friend or distant relative, the latter would have to pay 60% inheritance tax and would ultimately only receive €40,000. However, if you designate an animal protection foundation as universal legatee, it will receive a total of 60,000 euros (if no inheritance tax) and will pay the inheritance tax of the beneficiary you have designated (60% of €40,000, i.e. €24,000). In the end, your beneficiary will receive €40,000, but the 30 Million Friends Foundation will have inherited €36,000 (€100,000 – €40,000 – €24,000) which would otherwise have been paid to the State.

The simplicity of the life insurance contract

It is possible to name an association or an animal protection foundation as the beneficiary of a life insurance contract. It is a quick and easy process which, unlike a will, does not require you to draw up an official document or consult a notary.

Life insurance is a savings contract that can also meet a commitment objective with an animal protection association. You remain free to make punctual or regular withdrawals and payments. You can change beneficiary at any time and therefore name an organization working for the animal cause as beneficiary of an existing life insurance contract: a simple endorsement is enough.

The banker or insurer with whom you have taken out the contract has the obligation to inform the association of his designation as beneficiary. When the time comes, the capital left will be paid immediately and directly, without administrative procedure, and free of charge, provided that the association or foundation is not subject to transfer or inheritance tax.

Some associations or foundations working for the animal cause may also carry out conditions that you could impose, such as taking care of your animal after your death. You can also ask them to maintain your grave! These are things that are discussed upstream with the organization you wish to support.

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