English will

im sure this may have been covered a thousand times, but i can’t seem to find the exact info im after.
im looking for a solicitor in england who specialises in wills for france; then i can lodge this with my notaire after.
ive been advised that its far easier to have an english solicitor write the will, as most notaries are not used to this, due to standard succession laws in france.

we would welcome advice.


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I am surprised that you have been so advised and would suggest that you get in touch with your local Notaire to discuss this.

It’s been a few years since there was a flurry of local Brits (including us) making Wills (with UK Succession Rules/French Inheritance Tax)… but they/we had no trouble getting things organized in Dordogne/Haute Vienne.

However, you might like to contact @Guillaume_Barlet-Bat . His firm is recommended by the Forum.

I would definitely second @Stella 's advice to contact your notaire. We did this last year and found the process remarkably straighforward. It really depends on how complex your inheritance is likely to be but our notaire was not very expensive and was very helpful.

thanks for the advice, i will try that with my notaire.

my advice was that to be 100% sure on everything ( my french isnt wonderful) then it would be prudent to have the will drawn up in england, and then just lodged with the Notaire. its not that common in france to have a will, like we are used to in the UK. i suppose my approach is just belt and braces - there will be little ill be able to do afterwards !!!
thanks for the advice both of you.

Contact a French notaire in England.

It has to be in French to be lodged with the notaire, and handwritten, as I understand it. No witnesses needed though. I didn’t think that making a will was more uncommon here than in the UK? I thought that the same sort of proportion of people avoided it in both countries but then what do I know :smiley:

Could it be that in France the succession laws are set in tablets of stone hence the destiny of your estate is predetermined?
In the UK you can leave your estate to next doors cat if yo so choose.


They aren’t quite in tablets of stone, John - it’s just that if people feel that the inheritance laws cover them well enough, they might not bother…

IIRC French inheritance law is very prescriptive and whilst a notaire my be advisable, it may not necessarily be required if your assets on death worldwide are not complex. A notaire handles events in any event and will apply the rules strictly according to French law in the absence of any other instructions left by the deceased.

Only if you don’t make a will, although there are limits as to who you can leave things to, as John has implied. If Rob wants to leave things to someone other than close family, as indeed I did, he has to make a will of some sort and if he is excluding e.g. children it would have to specify that it is under English law as is his right.

If your situation is pretty straightforward then a French will written under English law will most likely do fine (handwritten in French). If that’s not the case and you have a complex family structure, or complex estate with significant assets in the UK then an English will, written under English law and registered in the UK - plus a copy given to your Notaire - may be the best option for you. For example if there any Trusts - apparently the French tax authorities do not like them.

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That makes sense, Jane. We have so few assets in the UK apart from bank accounts, it never occurred to me. Wouldn’t the will have to be in French though, if lodged with the notaire here?

Ours are not “lodged” here as just a copies for info so they know there is a will somewhere and they can’t go ahead an assume no will. The original wills are in the UK, and the executors can have the fun of sorting out the cross-border translations!

But we don’t plan on going anytime soon…so may not be the last one.

~Thanks all.

Ive emailed the guy that Stella recommended.
I dont believe its too complicated. all of our assets are in france.
we are remarried, and have 3 kids…so our plan is to leave the house to each other upon the first persons passing; and then to be divided up between the 3 kids on the last persons passing…
doesnt sound too complicated to me; but French law is very different when it comes to wills; so obviously we wanted to have the control before we sail off…hopefully not anytime soon.

I suppose each persons view is very valid; I just want to make sure we have done the best we can, as again - it’ll be too late afterwards !

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There another threshold running UK wills for French residents
Have to admit we haven’t got round to a French one but our UK ones reflect living in France.
We used Sue Busby at France Legal for our house purchase francelegal.co.uk and she also does wills and gave good advice, have to admit we are yet to get them done, so this thread reminds me we should get on with them!

The notaire takes your handwritten will and lodges it officially, physically (at least in year 2013) with a national office. There’s a fee for this. I am sure the notaire keeps a copy.

Advice we got was to have a French will in France covering all assets in France, and an English will covering the rest each under their respective regimes. Obvs let each country have a copy of the other country one to avoid confusion.

This was because this method was stronger to avoid assets in France being dealt with according to French succession law regardless of them being dealt with in an English will. This would happen with immobilier (ie your property). Even if English will validly deals with immobilier in France, apparently there is a risk French succession law is applied anyway. It would then be an administrative nightmare to try to correct it (and strong hint of it being practically impossible).

Lastly remember Brexit so some grounds for France honouring bequests made in UK wills may in due course be found to have fallen away.

Actually there are different types of will in France, the olographique (hand-written, no witness needed one) is just the most basic and simple sort for if you have a very straightforward situation.



Thanks Karen - great advice, very helpful.

that was my understanding too; I believe the fee is around €160 euro’s when I look at notaries website.
I suppose its all just a case of doing everything you can now - as we cant determine what could happen after…
all of our assets are in france, so we just wont bother doing a UK will. but we will certainly make sure we have a copy and translations in the UK with a few trusted people.

Thats a great link Veronique, thanks for sending that.

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AFAIK under French inheritance rules this may not be possible, which is why many opt for an English will.

Unless you are fluent in French, it may NOT be prudent to write your will in French. “The Connexion” published an article on 11/06/2021 highlighting issues concerning this. I believe that a follow-up article is due to be published in this month’s edition.

Regarding English wills, it is common for these to contain phrases such as "I appoint … to be the Executors and Trustees" , “Trustees” and “Upon trust”. My understanding is that the appointment of trustees may be problematic as the concept in France is different and may be regarding as a tax avoidance mechanism.

Also it is vital that your English will explicitly states that you wish English law to apply to your estate.

As others have pointed out, it is essential to take professional legal advice. Like @strudball , it is on my 2DO list to contact France Legal.