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Can an English solicitor register a will in France?

Can an English solicitor register a will in France, with a stipulation of English law to be applied?

The EU Succession Regulation (Brussels IV) provides that the state whose law shall apply will be that of the deceased’s last habitual residence.

However, people can, during their lifetime, elect the law of their country of nationality to govern their estate instead. Such an election must be made by a will.

In France, the most common form of will is a handwritten will (un testament olographe). Registration of such a will at the Central Registry of Wills (FCDDV) is not compulsory but is advisable.

UK-based solicitors and French law specialist firms regularly assist UK nationals in drawing up French wills with an election of English and Welsh law (or Scots law or Northern Irish law) for their French property to escape the forced heirship rules of French succession law.

The UK solicitor may then register the French will at the FCDDV and store the original at his/her office.

Alternatively, the UK solicitor may delegate registration and storage of the will to a notaire in France.

Increasingly, since the coming into force of Brussels IV, many UK nationals who own property in France, especially those who remain UK resident, make the election of the law of their nationality by making two UK wills (instead of a UK will and a French will).

One UK will deals with their UK assets and may contain trust provisions. Another is “French asset specific”, deals only with the France- based assets and excludes references to a trust.

There is no reason why a UK French asset-specific will cannot be registered at the FCDDV in France in the same way as a French testament olographe.

This is a complex area of law and future estate planning and specialist advice is essential as mistakes can be costly.


Question answered by Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query

Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 -

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