Through two decisions (Civ. 1ère, 27 sept. 2017, n° 16-17198 et 16-13151) both issued on September 27th, The French Cour de cassation finally gave an answer to one of the most discussed question of French Succession law: Is la réserve héréditaire part of French international public policy?
The circumstances of both cases are very similar. Two French composers living in California, where they had most of their assets, got married respectively in 1984 and 1990. They put their assets in a trust and designated their wives as beneficiaries. In both cases, the settlers did not designate the children they had from previous relationships as beneficiaries of the trust. After the death of their fathers, the latter turned to French courts in order to obtain part of the inheritance. They argued that the Californian law applicable to the succession should be declared contrary to French international public policy for not including a réserve héréditaire for certain heirs.