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FRANCE

Reader question: Is my non-French Will valid in France?

We don't want to put a downer on anyone's new life in France, but it's time to talk about death.

Reader question: Is my non-French Will valid in France?
Photo: Rosmarie Voegtli | CC BY 2.0

Moving to France and buying property here involves a lot of paperwork, but one piece of paper that is often forgotten in a Will.

So do you need to make a whole new Will when either moving to France or buying property here, or is your old Will valid?

The short answer is that your previous Will can remain valid – but under some conditions.

Long answer: If you make it clear that this is what you want, your non-French Will can apply over your estate, otherwise French inheritance law will take precedence over – at least – any French assets you may hold.

READ ALSO Wills, estates and notaires – what you need to know about inheritance laws in France

All non-French residents in France can opt for the law of the country of their nationality to apply to their estate. This law still applies to Britons, despite Brexit, so it may not be necessary to make an entire new Will.

But this decision has to be clearly expressed, otherwise – under the same EU regulation that allows you to choose under which law your estate shall be administered – the law of the country of the deceased’s last residence will apply to the entire estate.

At a minimum you will need to add a codicil to your Will, stating that you want the law of your home country, not French law, to apply.

Alternatively, a testament olographe stating that you want the Will of your nationality to apply, should be sufficient – though this is best done with the help of a notaire.

If you don’t live in France but do have property here then your home country’s Will should apply, but for the avoidance of doubt it is better to add that Codicil clearly statting that you do not want French law to apply to your French assets.

If you do decide to make a new Will in France, do seek professional advice from a notaire, since it’s not as simple as just leaving all your worldly possessions to whoever you like. French inheritance rules may be very different to the ones you are used to and include, for example, a ban on disinheriting your children.

You can make two Wills – one for your assets in your home country and one for your assets in France – but this should not be done without professional advice to ensure that the two Wills are not in conflict with each other.

Be aware, too, that under French law there are certain rules on who can inherit what. So, if you make a French Will for your French assets, they will have to comply with these rules.

For more answers to frequently asked questions about Wills and inheritance in France click here

The Notaires de France website also offers useful advice in English, while a list of English-speaking notaires in France is available here.

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PROPERTY

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

If you're researching the French property market, you might have come across mentions of 'courtiers' - here's what they do and whether they are necessary.

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

The French ‘courtier‘ is usually translated as a broker, and the Notaires Association describes their role like this: “the broker is a true intermediary in banking operations. His/her role is to negotiate the best rates for you, but not only that: they will also find the most advantageous financing conditions for the realisation of your project.”

Essentially they act as an intermediary between you and the banks, so they’re only required if you need a mortgage or a loan in order to buy your French property. 

Their job is to research the best deals for you and then to help you put together your application and ensure that all your paperwork is correct – unlike the notaire, instructing a courtier is not a required part of the process, so the decision on whether to instruct one is up to you. 

So is it worth it?

Among French buyers, around 30 percent of mortgages are obtained using the services of a courtier, and this rises to 60 percent among young, first-time buyers, who generally find it harder to access credit.

Some of things to consider are your level of French and confidence in negotiating French bureaucracy, your financial situation (since French mortgage lenders tend to be stricter than those in the UK or US) and whether you currently live in France or not (since there are extra hoops to jump through for overseas buyers).

READ ALSO Is now a good time to buy a home in France?

“Things have changed,” Trevor Leggett, group president of Leggett International estate agents, told The Local. “It’s now more important than ever to work closely with a reputable broker.

“In France it is all paper-based, very old-school and extremely bureaucratic, a different world entirely to the UK. Preparing the client “dossier” so that it will be accepted is an art form.”

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

He advised non-resident international clients, particularly, who may not be au fait with the French system to seek the help of a broker who knows the ropes.

“The question is no longer really about savings,” he said. “It is about finding a bank that can actually lend to the client profile, interests rate are secondary. 

“It occasionally happens that one bank can be played off against another, or to shop around, but it’s a rare event nowadays.”

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

And he had no hesitation in recommending that prospective buyers find a broker to sort out the financing.

“The lending market has tightened for international buyers and a good one is worth their weight in gold,” he said.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

In France, you make an offer on a property and then you begin the mortgage process (while in the UK it’s the other way round) so problems in getting your mortgage approved could lead to you losing your dream property.

“[Using a courtier] can be the difference between buying and not,” added Trevor.

“It’s not just any possible language barrier – but understanding the process and the different players in the market.”

How much?

The cost of hiring a courtier is borne by the buyer – but how much do they charge?

The courtier usually charges a percentage of the total mortgage amount – fees must be fixed in advance and are only payable once your mortgage application has been approved. 

Fees vary between different areas and different businesses, but the average fee is €2,000, which amounts to around one percent of the purchase price.

Many brokers set a minimum amount – around €1,500 – for smaller loans, and take a percentage of larger loans, so how much you pay depends on your property budget. 

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