It is possible to bequeath to two beneficiaries successively by resorting to specific forms of donations (gifts or legacies).

The residual donation

The residual donation makes it possible to transmit assets or rights to a first beneficiary who can use them freely.
On their death, what remains of these assets or rights must be transmitted to a second beneficiary designated by the author of the donation in the original legal instrument.

Practical example:

Marc decides to make a residual donation to his two children. He allocates the sum of €300,000 to his eldest son who is severely disabled.
When the latter dies, the portion of the money that has not been used will be passed on to his brother. If all the money has been spent, the second son will not receive anything.

The gradual donation

The gradual donation also makes it possible to transmit assets or rights to a first beneficiary, but the latter will be required to keep them as is so that they can be passed on to the second beneficiary on their death.

Practical example:

Jean, who is passionate about vintage cars, bequeaths his entire collection to his youngest son by will. The latter is required to safeguard it so that it can then be passed on at his death to John’s nephew, also designated by the testator.


In the case of a residual or gradual donation, both the first and second beneficiaries are deemed to have received the assets directly from the original author of the bequest or donation.

Consequently, the tax rules that apply are those corresponding to the relationship of kinship between the author of the donation and the beneficiary.

Practical example:

Gerard granted a gradual donation to his two children. They will benefit one after another from the allowance applicable between parent and child (100,000 euros each).

Thus, on the death of the first beneficiary, the second beneficiary will also be entitled to this allowance and not to that applicable between brother and sister, which is significantly lower (15,932 euros).

Worth knowing:

Residual and gradual donations must relate to “identifiable” assets, such as movable property, immovable property or a portfolio of securities. They cannot concern a sum of money or a share of assets.


Reference text:

Article 1057 of the French Civil Code 
Article 1048 of the French Civil Code