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The Will : Why does it draft and how ?


Wills are not just for the sick or elderly. It is never too early to prepare your succession and organise the division of your assets. It is often the best way to protect yourself, especially if you are not married.

Only by writing a will can you ensure that a partner in a civil partnership will inherit from your estate.

  • Why draft a will?

    • A will is a written document in which an adult makes decisions and sets out their wishes regarding what should happen in the event of their death.

    • In a will an individual can:
      - determine how their assets will be divided and name their beneficiaries (spouse, partner, child, friend or association), within the limits of what is allowed by law;
      -Ÿ name one or more executors who will have responsibility for ensuring that the testator's last wishes are carried out;
      -Ÿ settle personal questions: name the person who will be responsible for taking care of their children in the event of accidental death; organise their funeral; specify whether their body should be bequeathed for medical science; etc.

  • What are the advantages of a notarised will?

    • There are several forms of will, so that the needs of all situations can be satisfied. However, a notarised will is the most secure way of doing it.

    • The will is prepared by the notaire in the presence of two witnesses or a second notaire, and then signed by the testator.

    • The client dictates the will to the notaire who drafts it. The notaire then reads it to the client and everybody signs it (except the client if they are not able to do so). This is an effective way to ensure that the statutory forms are complied with (particularly with regard to the content of the will). Because of this, the validity of such documents is only challenged very rarely.

  • What are the other forms of will?

    • The secret will [testament mystique], which is now rare, offers the advantage of remaining secret. The author of the will hands it to their notaire in a sealed envelope, in the presence of two witnesses. The author is the only person to know the contents of the will. Because of this, the notaire cannot check whether the will is legally effective. This is the major disadvantage of this form of will.

    • The holographic will is the most common type of will. Such wills are written, dated and signed by the testator in their own handwriting. They are easy to make and cost little. However, they may sometimes be challenged (or even cancelled) when they have not been drafted with the assistance of a specialist lawyer.

  • What is an international will?

    • International wills are useful for foreigners living in France, for French people living abroad or for individuals who have assets in different countries. Once a will of this type has been drafted it must be presented to a notaire (or a consular agent abroad) in the presence of two witnesses. It may be written in any language.

  • Can a will be changed?

    • The testator has the right to change their mind up to the moment of death. The scope of the change may be very important or of little consequence: a simple legacy or all of the existing testamentary dispositions may be changed.

    • If the changes are extensive, it is better to redraft the will entirely. If the changes are only minor, it may be better to add a codicil to the will.


Do not hesitate to consult your notaire. They can guide you towards the most appropriate form of will for your situation and your wishes, which will then be respected. The cost of this service will be mentioned on the notaire's price list.

See also


French property market report / N°31