SHOULD YOU MAKE A WILL ?
You can write your last will and testament at any age.
Is a person totally free in deciding to whom to pass on their property ?
From a French perspective, your freedom will only be entire if, on the day of your death, you leave neither any children nor a spouse, because these people are protected by law and benefit from a minimal share called the hereditary reserve. The notary will tell you, on a case-by-case basis, how free you are based on your assumed heirs. He or she will alert you as necessary: did you know, for example, that a civil partner is not entitled to anything if they are not designated in a will? Do not hesitate to ask him or her about the taxation relating to passing on your assets as it may be advantageous to plan for this aspect during your lifetime.
What can you decide to do in a will ?
The decisions stated in a will may relate to all or part of your property. For example, you can decide that your house, your car, etc. will, after your death, go to one or more specific people: this is called a particular legacy. You can also choose to bequeath a percentage of your property, for example, half of all your property or one-third of your property. In this case, this is called a share of estate legacy. Finally, you can bequeath all of your property: this is called a universal legacy. So you can dispose of your property as you wish, but this provision will be reduced to comply with the law and the hereditary reserve.
Does a will only concern material property ?
Other personal matters can be settled in a will, for example by designating the person who will take care of your children
in the event of the death of both parents. For the organisation of the funeral, the will may be opened too late: it is preferable to communicate your wishes about this matter separately. This can be in a letter given over for safekeeping to a trusted person.
How is a will drawn up ?
You can very simply write your will in your own handwriting and date and sign it on plain paper. This will be a holographic will. To ensure it is kept properly, this will may be deposited and registered in a notarial office which will record it in a national register accessible by all European notaries on the day of your death. It is also possible, indeed advisable in some cases, to ask a notary to prepare your will in a notarial deed that is more difficult to challenge.
What if I do not live in France ?
Since August 2015, in the absence of any other legal provision, the law applicable to your estate is that of your last habitual residence. So if you are French but reside in Italy, Italian law will apply to your estate. However, you can specify in your will that you want the law of your nationality to apply to the settlement of your estate, no matter where your property is located.
Since the law is different in each State, it is advisable to contact a lawyer in the country of your residence and a French notary to choose the law that best matches your wish. Note, however that this choice will have no effect on taxation. Buildings in France will always be taxable in France.