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How can I make my French will easier for my UK family to administer?

Partner article: We steer you through the tax implications and how to navigate potential language barriers

You don’t necessarily need to name a notaire simply because they speak English Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I live alone in France – my family are all in the UK. I am making a French will but what else can I do to make it easier for them, most of whom have only limited French? Translate the will? Find an English-speaking notaire? Take out a funeral insurance plan and arrange for potential repatriation to the UK?

Regrettably, many people do not give sufficient thought to how their estates are to be administered, so this question is sensible.

Most inquiries we receive about inheritance matters concentrate on France’s fixed inheritance rights, which tend to prefer a person’s children or surviving spouse, or the implications of the EU Succession Regulation under which it is now possible to elect the law of one’s nationality to the estate. 

In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, however, those points might not be of major importance.

The issue here is much broader. When writing a will, should we tell anyone else apart from the lawyer advising on the drafting, and should plans be set up now to ease the administration?

Translation and storage

It is generally wise to tell executors or potential beneficiaries about your will, and where the original is stored.

If it is in French, it is prudent to provide a translation. 

However, it might not be so important to name a notaire purely because they speak English: that notaire might have retired by the time the will comes to be proved.

Tax consequences

Also of importance is understanding the tax consequences.

Note that leaving anything to unrelated friends in France will attract inheritance tax at 60%.

It might be possible to shield some of your assets against this, although that may require careful planning and investigation.

If you have specific wishes in relation to your funeral, including repatriation to the UK, then you should investigate these matters first.

As ever, seeking detailed advice from solicitors with cross-border estate expertise might be beneficial.

This reader question was answered by Matthew Cameron of Ashtons Legal

Related articles

Does a UK will suffice for a French/English couple living in France?

Will our marriage regime affect the French property left in our will?

Will my UK will ensure my French second home passes to my child?

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