We are frequently asked to assist clients with the notarisation and legalisation of a power of attorney (procuration) to deal with matters in France. A power of attorney might be needed to buy or sell a property in France or to accept a gift or deal with an inheritance matter. Whatever the reason, the process is generally the same.
In the first instance, the French notary (notaire) will provide you with a draft of the document. Owing to a very old piece of French legislation from 1539 (known as the Ordinance of Villiers-Corrêts), all French legal documents must be written in the French language. Therefore, a translation into English may be required.
Translation of French Powers of Attorney
In both French and English notarial practice, there is a requirement to ensure that clients understand what they are signing. There are, however, various ways to satisfy these rules:
- You may speak French well enough to understand the contents of the procuration (although, be warned, legal French is a language in its own right!)
- Your French notary, if he or she speaks English, can explain the contents of the document to you. In this case, you will normally be asked to sign a confirmation that you’ve had the contents explained to you in English.
- More often than not, though, you will be asked to obtain a professional translation into English. Sometimes, you might have to sign both the French and the English versions to prove you’ve understood.
When it comes to translations, we have our own in-house translation agency called Dot Comma Translations Limited. They are able to produce translations quickly and cost-effectively. Alternatively, you can make your own arrangements for the translation, should you wish.
Notarisation of the procuration
There are two types of powers of attorney for France: those in private form (acte sous seing privé) and those in public form (acte authentique). The type needed generally depends on the nature of transaction you are undertaking. For example, if you are buying a property off-plan, French law stipulates that the power of attorney must be in public form.
For a power of attorney in public form (acte authentique), we will need to receive the document ahead of the meeting as we need to complete certain sections with our details to ensure that it complies with English law. A version in private form (acte sous seing privé) is slightly more straightforward as we don’t need to do anything before the meeting.
Irrespective of the form of the procuration, we will need to arrange an appointment for you to visit our offices with your ID (passport is ideal) and a proof of address. You will then sign in the presence of the notary public, who will confirm that you are who you say you are, and initial the bottom corner of each page to show that you’ve understood the contents of the document.
In some cases, where you’re buying a house without recourse to a mortgage, for example, you may also need to write out by hand a statement stating that you’re aware of the legal implications.
Legalisation of powers of attorney
Legalisation is, in this context, the process by which a document signed outside France is confirmed to be genuine so that it can be used in France. Since the UK and France are both parties to the Hague Convention of 1961, the legalisation formalities can be satisfied by means of an Apostille stamp from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Find out more about legalisation of documents for France here.
Although Art. 4 of the Decree of 4th January 1955 stipulates that all powers of attorney signed outside of France must be legalised by Apostille before they are presented to the Publicité Foncière (French Land Registry), in our experience, this requirement is not always observed by every French notary, and many are satisfied with a notarised procuration without the need for an apostille. Therefore, you should check with the recipient if you are in any doubt.