This makes it possible to avoid pitfalls related to the recognition of a will abroad.

Coming into force on 1 December 1994, the Washington Convention of 28 October 1973 proposes a form of will that is accepted and valid in all the states that have signed up to it. This international will coexists with the other types of will provided for by each national legislation.

The international will

The formalities are not binding. The will can be written by the person concerned or someone else, in any language, by hand or on a computer.

This document will then be entrusted to a notary (or abroad, a diplomatic official and/or consular) in front of witnesses.

The testator declares that the will is theirs and that they know the content (without the need to reveal it). Once signed, the notary, or their representative abroad, as well as the witnesses affix their signatures. The notary attaches a certificate stating that the obligations stipulated in law have been respected.

Most of the time, the will will be kept in the central file of testamentary provisions.

An international will can validate a French will which is irregular in the form

In France, two main models are used. The so-called “holograph” will, written by the hand of its author, and the so-called “authentic” one, written by the notary under the dictation of the testator before witnesses. This latter type of will is only valid if it respects precise formal requirements.

Failure to comply with these rules may result in the will being deemed null and void. Before making this decision, the French judges examine the validity of the legal instrument with regard to the less stringent formalism of the international will, in order to validate the provisions of an authentic will which might be null and void. The cancellation of an authentic will for non-compliance with the provisions of the French Civil Code does not preclude the validity of the legal instrument as an international will, provided that the formalities stipulated in the Washington Convention of 26 October 1973 have been fulfilled.

Worth knowing

The international will remains standard in its content: indication of the beneficiaries, distribution of the assets, possible respect of forced heirship, etc.


Reference text

Decree No. 94-990 of 8 November 1994