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Re-writing UK wills in French

My parents, in their 90s, moved to France to be near me. They rewrote their UK wills, stating they were to be used when they die. I asked our notaire if he needed a copy and he said he needed my parents to re-write them, preferably in French. Is this correct?  J.F.

If your parents made validly executed UK wills, with a standard revocation clause to revoke all previous wills, then they will be recognised as valid in France under the Hague Convention. There is no need to handwrite a French form will.

If your parents die while habitually resident in France, French law will almost certainly apply to their estate on their death. It has a concept of reserved heirs under which the children of the deceased have a right to a share of the estate, in priority to a surviving spouse.

By electing the law of their nationality in their UK wills France will apply English law to their estate under the EU Succession Regulation. 

This would mean the terms of the English will are carried out irrespective of French reserved-heir rules.

If there is no express election of UK law, it is possible there might be an implied election of English law, although that becomes technical. The wills would need to be analysed by a solicitor specialised in English wills, French law and practical implementation of the EU Succession Regulation.

It would be advisable for your parents’ UK wills to be reviewed by a UK solicitor specialised in French law, as the drafting of standard UK Wills can create problems in France in the administration of the estate, especially if the will appoints Trustees who are not the same as the beneficiaries. This can result in 60% inheritance tax if not correctly handled.

In the event of death, I would strongly advise seeking advice from a UK specialist before speaking to a French notaire: some notaires hold more archaic views on UK wills than others, and once acting for an estate, are very difficult to remove. It would be prudent to appoint a cooperative notaire from the outset.

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

Tel: +44 (0)113 393 1930 -

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