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How can I sign a French power of attorney from UK?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query on how to remotely sign a French power of attorney

Reader question: I cannot meet a notaire during Covid-19 lockdown in the UK. How can I sign a French power of attorney?

Certain French legal documents must usually be signed in person in France, in front of a notaire.

These include ones relating to an inheritance, such as the acte de notoriété (deed of entitlement to inherit), most déclarations de succession, and all attestations de propriété immobilière (title transfer on death).

When buying or selling French property, you must also sign the final deed on completion with a notaire.

As it is not always practical or possible, people may use a power of attorney to appoint the notaire or their clerk (or other trusted person) to sign in France on their behalf.

The French reacted to the problems of signing procurations (powers of attorney) at the start of the Covid pandemic by introducing a temporary decree allowing remote signing of these by video-conferencing. They have now extended this to make electronic and video signing a permanent option.

This makes it easier for clients to sign powers of attorney and French legal documents without having to visit a notaire or a British notary public or solicitor in person. This is useful if you are accepting an inheritance, or buying or selling property.

You can now sign by video-conference, subject to following correct signing and certification protocols. A suitable notary public or specialist solicitor can also obtain apostille legalisation certificates where required.

Read more: New system allows notaires more use of video conference

Notaires make use of a system called DocuSign for clients in France but it has often proved unsuited to many British residents, for practical reasons.

The simplest solution for a UK specialist is to get procuration documents from a notaire, and email them to the client, who prints and signs them while the specialist witnesses on Zoom. They are scanned and emailed and a hard copy sent in the post.

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