<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
5 ISSUES FOR £5 Subscribe to France Magazines today click here

Everything you need to know before making a French will

PUBLISHED: 16:17 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:17 02 October 2017

All you need to know about French wills © Entienou / Istock

All you need to know about French wills © Entienou / Istock


Before making a French will make sure you understand the French and European regulations and the different types of French wills

Benoît Duchan is a notaire based in Chalabre, Aude

To make a will that will be considered valid under French law, you must be mentally capable and at least 18 years old, although there are provisions in place for minors to make a will from the age of 16. The will only applies to assets which the testator legally owns at the time of death.

Can I have a French will and a UK will?

France has signed the 1961 Hague Convention concerning wills and therefore recognises wills that are valid under UK law. This also means that a UK will can cover French assets and that a French will can also affect assets located in the UK, but also that a French will can cancel a UK will and vice versa.

It is therefore very important to mention to your lawyer or notaire who helps you with your French or UK will if you already have another will in place in the other country. Otherwise, if you start your new will with the standard “This is my last will and testament; I cancel every other previous will...”, this automatically cancels the will you have already drawn up in the other country.

If you want to maintain the other country’s will, it has to be specifically mentioned. For instance, you could say: “I cancel every previous will except the will made on such-and-such a date in France (or in the UK) that I specifically maintain.”


Don’t miss

The legal process of buying a French property

All you need to know about matrimonial regimes before buying a French property


Is it better to have one will or separate wills for different countries?

Even if a single will can cover assets in both countries, it may be recommended in some situations to have two separate wills, one for each country, because the inheritance and tax laws in the two countries may be different. French law, for instance, does not recognise the ‘trust’ system or the powers that a UK ‘executor’ of a will has under UK law. This may cause problems, especially for registering the transfer of the French property. In terms of taxes, a discretionary trust is heavily taxed in France, even if the beneficiaries are the children.

What about the European regulations?

The European Succession Regulation 650/2012, which came into force on 17 August 2015, allows you to elect your national law of succession to apply to all your assets including those located in France. If you wish to elect your national law of succession, and for it to be recognised in France, it must be written into your will. However, the UK has opted out from this EU regulation and therefore its application is not yet guaranteed. Please note that this regulation is not a tax treaty and so the French tax regulations would still apply.


Don’t miss

How do European inheritance laws impact me?

Succession tax in France


What are the different types of French will?

Under French law a will can be ‘authentique’, ‘mystique’, ‘international’ or ‘olographe’.

An authentique will is dictated in French by the testator to a French notaire, who writes it up, and is signed in the presence of two witnesses or another notaire.

A mystique will is handed to a French notaire in a sealed envelope in the presence of two witnesses.

An international will can be handwritten by the testator himself or typed, not necessarily in French, and signed in the presence of two witnesses in front of a French notaire.

An olographe will – the most common type in France – is written entirely by hand, dated and signed by the testator himself. It is not signed in the presence of a notaire or witnesses. French law considers that the fact that it is entirely written by hand by the testator is sufficient. It can be written in any language, not necessarily in French. It is, of course, recommended that the testator gets legal advice before drawing it up. The testator should give the original of the handwritten will to a French notaire in order for it to be kept and registered at the ‘fichier central des dispositions de dernières volontés’, the French national registry of last wills and testaments. This formality is not a condition of validity of the will but is to guarantee that it will be found and used.

In conclusion, I highly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist before you make your will concerning any French assets. This can be a very cost-effective way to avoid any undue distress and confusion for your beneficiaries.

Don’t miss

New European inheritance rules explained

3 types of joint property ownership in France

France’s tontine clause


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Complete France visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Complete France staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Complete France account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from French Property

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Are you curious about when your French house was built and who else has lived there? Find out how to discover the history of your French property

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Renovation expert Matthew Chalk tells us about an ambitious project to restore a prominent village house in Brittany

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Conditions for mortgage borrowers in France remain very favourable thanks to the election of President Macron, so is a mortgage a good option for British buyers?

Read more
Sunday, May 14, 2017

If you’re planning to buy a property in France, make sure you understand how French and UK mortgages differ

Read more
Thursday, March 22, 2018

At a loss over losing money when you need to send cash back home? It’s a common problem for expats who are getting stung by excessive fees and hidden charges from banks. With CurrencyFair, an online marketplace, secure transactions are made faster and far cheaper

Read more
Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Pound to Euro exchange rate has continued to slide, presenting headaches for Euro buyers with Pounds. What seemed unthinkable a few months ago has now become a reality. What will be the main drivers on the rate for the coming weeks and months and just how low could this go?

Read more
Currency exchange update
Monday, March 5, 2018

Once a price has been agreed, the buyer and seller of a French property sign a preliminary contract, the compromis de vente. Here is everything you need to know about this legally binding contract

Read more
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If you want to give someone the power to act on your behalf in France, whether to sign your property purchase documents or if you lose mental capacity, you’ll need to apply for the French equivalent of power of attorney

Read more
Thursday, April 19, 2018

It is a common view that you pay very high taxes in France, so you might be surprised to learn that moving to France could actually cut your tax bill rather than increase it

Read more
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

With French income tax deadlines looming here is a guide through the maze of French income tax and information on how and when to submit a French income tax return

Read more
Subscribe today

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now