France (as of 1911)
The law is mainly contained in ss. 967–1074 of the Code Napoleon. Wills in France may be of three kinds:
- holograph, which must be wholly written, dated and signed by the testator;
- made as a public instrument, i.e. received by two notaries before two witnesses or by one notary before four witnesses; this form of will must be dictated by the testator and written by the notary, must be read over to the testator in the presence of the witnesses and must be signed by testator and witnesses;
- mystic, which are signed by the testator, then closed and sealed and delivered by him to a notary before six witnesses; the notary then draws up an account of the proceedings on the instrument which is signed by the testator, notary and witnesses.
Legatees and their blood relations to the fourth degree may not be witnesses. Nuncupative wills are not recognized. Soldiers’ and sailors’ wills are subject to special rules as in most other countries. Full liberty of disposition only exists where the testator has no ascendants or descendants, in other cases his quantile disponible is subject to reserve; if the testator has one child he may only dispose of half his estate, if two only one-third, if three or more only one-fourth; if he has no descendants but ascendants in both lines he may dispose of half, if ascendants in one line only he may dispose of three-fourths. The full age of testamentary capacity is twenty-one years, but minors over the age of sixteen may dispose by will of half of the estate of which they could dispose had they been of full age. There is no restriction against married women making wills. A contract to dispose of the succession is invalid, s. 791.