Can we set up a French will via the internet?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query on setting up a French will online

13 July 2021

'There are two solutions available but in both cases be careful not to revoke your existing UK will and to limit the French will to your French estate' Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

By John Kitching

Reader question: My wife and I have to make French wills regarding our French property. We are unable to get to France to do this. We have wills in England already. Can we set up a French will each using the internet?

During the pandemic, French notaires have been able to visit ill clients to prepare authentique wills. However, a will cannot so far be signed remotely by e-signature (although this is permitted for contracts).

There are two solutions but in both cases be careful not to revoke your existing UK will and to limit the French will to your French estate.

Also, consider whether or not it is prudent to expressly elect the law of your nationality.

The testament olographe: this popular format should be in your own handwriting on plain paper, signed and dated, without witnesses.

However, if you sign one in the UK, it is only valid in relation to your French real estate, not in relation to French movables, eg French bank accounts. If signed in France, it is valid in relation to all categories of assets.

For an additional English will specific to assets in France, you need to carefully draft this so as not to set up problematic trusts and trustees which could cause tax issues in France.

An English will would usually be typed and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. The will should be dated. If you are English, this can be signed anywhere and is valid in relation to all categories of assets in France.

In any event, I would suggest you seek specialist advice, as there are other considerations you may need guidance with, such as the inheritance tax implications of your will drafting, inheritance wishes, how you hold your current assets, and the effect of your existing will and any express or implied choice of law.

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Can we opt for the law of our nationality when drawing up our wills?

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