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Seizable property (« biens saisissables ») according to French law

Seizable property (“biens saisissables”) is property that can be seized and validly subject to civil enforcement proceedings, even if it is held by a third party.

What principles govern seizable property in France?

According to article 2284 of the French Civil Code, any person who has made a personal commitment is bound to fulfill his/her obligation on all his property, whether movable or immovable, present or future.

Thus, seizures of property and enforcement measures may be carried out on all of the debtor's assets, whether they are held by the debtor or by a third party. Specific provisions may apply for seizure and sale operations on assets held by a third party.

Which debtor’s assets are exempt from seizure?

Article L. 112-2 of the French Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures specifies the cases of unseizable property of the debtor, which constitute exceptions to the principle of seizability of all of his assets.

The purpose of such exceptions is to guarantee decent living conditions for the debtor and his family and to ensure their dignity, while taking into account the legitimate interests of creditors.

The assets that may not be seized are listed exhaustively.

Property that the law declares unseizable, property that the law renders untransferable, claims of a maintenance nature, available property declared unseizable by the testator or donor, movable property necessary for the life and work of the debtor and his family, movable property necessary for the life and work of the debtor and his family, belonging to the beneficiaries of child welfare benefits, objects indispensable to disabled persons or intended for the care of sick persons, and unseizable claims whose amount is paid into an account are all unseizable property.

However, some of these non-seizable assets are subject to limitations which can make them seizable in certain specific circumstances.

Texts of French law governing unseizable assets:

- Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures, art. L. 112-1 to L. 112-4, R. 112-1 to R. 112-5

- C. civ., art. 2284

- Code de l'action sociale et des familles, art. L. 222-1 to L. 222-7

- C. trav. L. 2132-4, L. 3252-2, R. 3252-2

Main decisions of French courts on seizable assets:

- Civ. 2e, May 12, 2016, No. 15-15.158

- Civ. 1re, Dec. 11, 1985, no. 84-10.339

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