Do I need to register my handwritten will in France?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query on what to do with a handwritten will in France

14 May 2021

In order to register a will in France, you need to ask a French notaire to do this Pic: RODNAE Productions / Pexels

By John Kitching

Reader question: I am British and have lived in France for many years. Can I just keep my handwritten olographe will at home or must I register it, and, if so, how?

The registration of handwritten olographe wills in France is not legally necessary until the will takes effect on death (it is only at that point that it has to be registered).

So, yes, you can keep your will at home if you so wish, but obviously you need to ensure that your loved ones know where to find it. You do also run the risk that it might get lost, overlooked or destroyed.

Many French residents choose to register their will so that there is a record of it and it can be located in the event of death.

In order to register a will in France, you need to ask a French notaire to do this.

You need to take proof of identity and address, and the cost varies from around €40 to €200. If you live in France, your notaire can also register a UK will for you, should you have one.

The notaire will contact the wills register, Fichier Central des Dispositions de Dernières Volontés (Fcddv). The Fcddv does not store the will but just notes its existence and date of the will of a particular testator, and which notaire stores it.

It is important to note that registration does not confirm the validity or effectiveness of the will – it is not a will-checking service.

I have seen some dangerously ineffective wills that have been registered (in more than one case, failing to even specify any beneficiaries).

When a person dies, the notaire searches the wills register to see if a will has been registered and which notaire to contact for the original document.

The details of the will are not disclosed until death, and then only to the beneficiaries.

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