Must an English will be registered in France?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query.

9 October 2020
A piece of paper reads 'last will and testament'. Article: Must an English will be registered in France? Photo by Melinda Gimpel / UnsplashOne reader question is answered in the October edition of The Connexion: Must an English will be registered in France? Melinda Gimpel / Unsplash
By John Kitching

Question:

I am French resident and my sole property is in France. I have a will that I made in English under UK law. Do I now need to have it confirmed by a French notaire?

Answer:

English wills are valid in France and, as an English will, its validity is determined by Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 and not by the fact of whether or not it is registered. The requirements of Section 9 for a will to be valid are:

n The will must be in writing, and signed by the testator, or another person in their presence and by their direction;

n It appears the testator intended by their signature to give effect to the will;

n The signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the time, who also sign the will while with the testator.

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Registration of wills in France is not necessary until the will takes effect on death. Many French residents, however, choose to register a will so there is a record of it and it can be located in the event of death. You can ask a notaire to register a French or an English will. 

You need to take proof of identity and address, and the cost is €40-€200. On death, the notaire searches the wills register to see if a will has been registered and, if so, which notaire to contact for the original. The details are not disclosed until death and then only to the beneficiaries.

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I would recommend having your English will checked by an expert to make sure that it is relevant to your current circumstances and does not contain common pitfalls of English wills which may cause complication in France. These include appointing executors and trustees who are not the immediate beneficiaries, or use of trusts. Also, check the relevance of any choice of law, whether implied or expressly stated.

If all of your assets are in France, and you are not disinheriting children, it may be easier to have a simple French will administered under French law.

Call +44 (0) 16 63 74 54 88 for an initial free consultancy. frenchlawconsultancy.com

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