Does my will need to be in English and French?

John Kitching, a director of French Law Consultancy Limited, answers a reader query

You should write a will in your native language unless you are fluent in French

Reader question: Is it mandatory to have your will written in both French and English if you are British but live permanently in France? Must it be witnessed?

If you are a permanent French resident, and a British national, you can use a form of French Will that is valid under French law, or a UK will that is valid under UK law which would then be valid in France in accordance with the 1961 Hague Convention on wills.

French Wills can be a testament authentique, drafted by a notaire, and signed and witnessed with the notaire; or a very rarely-used testament mystique (a ‘secret’ will deposited with the notaire in a sealed envelope with witnesses present) or a handwritten testament olographe.

Read more:  Tips for making a will in France without a notaire

For the latter, it is advised that you write in your native language unless fluent in French. Otherwise, the will’s validity and intention can be questioned. If you write in English, the notaire will arrange a translation on your death (the cost is around €100 per page).

The requirements for a testament olographe, set out in the Code Civil article 970, state that you must NOT have it witnessed nor marked by any person other than the testator. It must be signed and dated, and stated to be a testament (will).

If you are using a UK will, the laws of England and Wales Wills Act 1837 requires it to be: in writing (usually typed, but can be handwritten) and signed by the testator. The signature is made in the presence of two or more witnesses. Each attests and signs the will; they witnesses do not need to be professionals, they need to be over 18 and mentally capable, and not a beneficiary of the will.

But get professional assistance, as we see many horror stories where wills have been poorly drafted, or missed out the beneficiary, or named bank accounts which then no longer exist at death.