Signing paperwork

Hi there just a quick one…too cut a long story short our dad passed away last year leaving me and my sister protected heirs…does anyone here know what will happen if we do not sign the dossier???

Regards Rachael

Hi Rachel

I see that you have already been investigating on the forum… in July 2017… what happened???

What does your Notaire say ???

Hi Stella… .alot has happened since…we have a 40 page dossier in French to read through even though we don’t speak the language…we have a friend in France who is willing to sign on our behalf…so we recently had paperwork come that we have to sign in front of a solicitor here in England…our solicitor has said we are not to sign anything we do not understand as everything is in French including emails and it will cost me and my sister nearly a thousand pounds to get it translated and we are not in a position to do that… .so our solicitor says that the notaire has to provide everything in English… .this has been a nitemare for the last year…we have since stopped contact with our stepmum as she got very defensive and rude when we asked for certain things required by our solicitor…

Regards Rachael

Sounds like a nightmare.

Your solicitor is quite correct in advising against signing anything you cannot understand.

I wonder if you could use a bi-lingual solicitor/notaire… someone who will understand the French docs and be able to advise you accordingly… Your Step-mother obviously has no problems with French language… but it would surely make sense to use a bi-lingual Notaire for a “bi-lingual” Inheritance…

When I have been present at minor legal transactions here, involving non-French friends… the Notaire has been very careful to ensure we all understood every thing…

Last time was in the Charente and I was prepared to do a running translation for my friends, but it turned out the Notaire spoke excellent English… phew :relaxed: what a relief.

The notaire does not have to provide anything at all in English, it is your responsibility to get documents translated. Documents eg contracts in languages other than French are invalid in France.


It is a nitemare Stella… .my dad’s notaire is nothing more than an arse! And isn’t very helpful at all…we just wanted to know what will happen if we do not sign anything

I’ll try and ask the question… during the week… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

If someone does know the answer… please do chime in… :thinking:

The paperwork you have to sign in GB is most likely an official permission for someone to sign and act on your behalf, so it has to be authentified by a solicitor.

Get the documents translated and then decide whether you accept the succession and under what circumstances. You can’t just do nothing though because that paralyses everything.

The notaire is just doing his/her job. It doesn’t happen the way things do in England or Scotland, nor the way it does in films, that doesn’t mean they are being an arse.


We had to have our wedding contract translated from French into English, so my husband would understand what he is signing for. Our Notaire wouldn’t accept him signing a legal document without make sure he understands what he is signing for. I think it is fair and honest.


Yes, but that was your notaire having something something for you his/her direct clients - the English version still has no legal validity, it is just for information.

I think that is what the original Poster is after… information about the document she is being asked to sign…and its contents… simply signing something that looks like “gibberish” is a no-no in my book :wink:

Rachel, There is no obligation on the Notaire to produce documents in English no more than on your UK solicitor to produce them in French. Though I am sure both would arrange a translation, at your expense. I lost my wife in December '13 and the succession was quite complex, property in France and Ireland and assets in both jurisdictions. I’d reams of paperwork but much of it is repetitive but it doesn’t have any “traps” in it. Really one only has to verify the accuracy of the information. My notaire was excellent and I’m sure that’s not always the case but I’d council against assuming the notaire is an “arse”.

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And there’s only one solution in my opinion, get the documents translated professionally or by a trusted and competent friend. Trying to bend the French system to one’s will is futile.


I would also suggest you get in touch with @Guillaume_Barlet-Bat - he is a bi-lingual solicitor and will be able to help you .
Good luck x

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I would have thought that there would be a general legal principle that where a lawyer is required to inform a person of something, that there is then a duty to carry out the informatory process in a language that the recipient can understand.
If we were talking about actual court proceedings then surely the court would have a duty to provide an interpreter.
Surely there must be a general similar requirement in relation to the broader sphere of legal communications.
A good general tactic would be to write to the Notaire in English stating that one does not understand French, and that if he wants to give official notification of something, or wants some document signed, then it is up to him to provide the documentation in a language which can be understood by the recipient.
I suppose that how far one pushes this point would depend upon who started the discourse in the first place, and whether or not one wants the Notaire to do anything beneficial to oneself.

“I would have thought that there would be a general legal principle that where a lawyer is required to inform a person of something, that there is then a duty to carry out the informatory process in a language that the recipient can understand.”

Wrong, I’m afraid. Anyone in receipt of documents incomprehensible to them can have them translated at leisure by a translator of their choice.
In France a document has to be in French, to be legally valid.
Speech in court or in a hearing, where an interpreter appointed by the court is present, is different because it is immediate.
Similarly, as you probably know, ignorance of the law is no defence: the onus is always on the citizen to inform him/herself.


Imagine the legal chaos: someone whose language is Kazakh or Luo or Malayalam or Nahuatl gets a Fr document. What happens? Is the notaire supposed to find a translator?

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Well said John.

There are hundreds of languages around the world and you can’t possibly expect a Notaire, of any country, to provide translated documents in your particular language. Unfortunately, there are some Brits who just expect everything to be available to them in English wherever they are in the world.

I went with my lovely Mum to Belgium on holiday and we went to a cafe for lunch one day. She was aghast that the menu was only in French and she couldn’t understand it. “Is there not an English version” she said :laughing::laughing:


If they were criminal court proceedings and the defendant didn’t have an adequate grasp of the language then the Court would provide an interpreter Roger, but I doubt that’s the case in civil proceedings. Who would pay for it? If one is conducting business, and succession is “business”, in a foreign land then the onus is on you to understand what’s going on. This is where living abroad does get complicated but expecting the locals to “accommodate” one is probably going to end badly. I find that if I take the time to figure out what the procedure is here and what documents one has to have and then folow the process things work out fine. When ever I’ve deviated or taken a shortcut I’ve ended up frustrated. When in Rome and all that…

My advice to Rachael is not to waste her time trying to fight the system, it just won’t work.


I am merely trying to find out what happens if we don’t sign…we are not trying to fight the legalities of it…but until you have been through what we have been through in this last year you would understand…we don’t have the money to get everything translated and we don’t get anything till the surviving spouse dies…

Now is there anyone that can my question?