Preparing your last will and testament following the purchase of a property in France, why and how ?

A will is a written document by which a person makes decisions and specifies his or her wishes following his or her death.

You can:

  • Organize the transmission or the distribution of your assets and designate the beneficiaries (spouse, partner, cohabiting partner, child, friend or association)
  • Designate one or more executors responsible for ensuring the proper execution of your last wishes
  • Settle personal matters (Indicate the person who will be responsible for taking care of their children while they are still minors for example)

Good to know: an unemancipated minor cannot make a bequest; however, if over 16, the child can, but only on half of what he could have disposed of by will if he had been of age.

Several forms of wills that allow a person to indicate their last wishes

The “Authentic” will:

Established by a Notaire in the presence of two witnesses or a second notary, the authentic will must be signed by the testator.

The Notaire writes the text of the will under the dictation of his client. Then, it is read and signed  by everyone (except if testator is unable to do so). The authentic will is a safe and effective means of ensuring that the forms required by law will be complied with (in particular with regard to the content of the document). As such, the validity of this document can only very rarely be questioned.

An authentic will is mandatory when the testator:

  • wants to recognize an illegitimate child
  • wants to withdraw the rights of residence and use of the marital home and its furnishings from their spouse
  • cannot or no longer write or sign himself or herself
  • is deaf or mute
  • cannot speak French (The will is dictated and read by a sworn interpreter in the language of the person concerned)

The “Holographic” will:

The document is written, dated and signed by the hand of the testator. While it is an inexpensive and widespread solution, it can sometimes give rise to dispute (or even cancellation) when it is not written with the help of a specialized lawyer.

The “Mystical” will:

Its author is the only one who knows its contents when it is given to the Notaire in a sealed envelope in the presence of two witnesses. Therefore, the Notaire cannot verify its legal effectiveness. This is the major drawback and explains why it is rarely used.

The “International” will:

This type of will may be the solution for a foreigner living in France or for a French national living abroad and also for a person with property in different countries. It can be written in any language and be presented to a Notaire in the presence of two witnesses.

How much of my assets can I transfer by testament?

The testator can only freely dispose of the asset portion called the “disposable portion” because it is impossible to completely disinherit your so-called compulsory heirs (surviving husband or wife and children) which will inherit the portion of the asset called “reserve portion”.

The “disposable portion” is half if the deceased leaves a child, a third if there are two children, a quarter if there are three or more children, three quarters in the presence of the spouse in the absence of a descendant.

In the absence of a child or spouse, testamentary freedom is total.

Is it possible to write a will as a couple?

Under French law, a will cannot be made in the same document by two or more people. Thus, a will written by a couple or written by one person and signed by both (called a joint will) is void and cannot be enforced.

It is therefore appropriate for everyone to write their will separately.

Can I reconsider and modify my testament?

The testator is free to reconsider his or her last wishes at any time. The will is always revocable by the simple will of the person who drafted it.

The revocation of the will can be express (new subsequent will or notarial deed) or tacit (writing of a will incompatible with the previous one). The testator can also prevent the execution of a holographic will by destroying it.

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