My partner and I recently got married and are updating our wills. We intend to do this with a specialist so that it deals with the complexities of French inheritance law in advance of moving there in the next couple of years (we each have an adult child from previous marriages, one of whom is living in New Zealand). We both have strong feelings about living wills and end-of-life care, and realised we have no idea how living wills and advanced care directives work in France. Is there a facility for these? Are they recognised legally? If not recognised in law does the medical profession in France honour them if they exist? We’re still in our fifties so hope it won’t be needed for a long time yet, but good to get these things sorted!
It is indeed possible to make legally recognised advance directives in France under current French legislation. As the French Public Health Code sets out, directives anticipées (advance directives) allow you to express your care and end-of-life wishes in advance, should you not be able to express those views when they are needed. Once your wishes are recorded in an advance directive document, they must be taken into account by medical professionals, although they are not bound to follow them in all situations. Such wishes can include your views on certain medical treatments, techniques you may not want and end-of-life decisions, such as whether or not you would like to be kept artificially alive, among others. French advance directives also allow you to nominate a ‘person of trust’ such as a family member or your doctor, whose role is to be consulted on your care and end-of-life matters in the event that you are incapacitated or unable to express yourself. In terms of formalities, anyone over the age of 18 can prepare advance directives. Once made, advance directives remain valid indefinitely. They can be modified or revoked if needed. You can write your own advance directives; the process does not involve a lawyer or notaire. Your doctor will be able to provide guidance on the wording, especially if you have been diagnosed with a particular condition. The directives should be signed by you, and dated. You can also use template forms made available by the French Ministry of Health. You should inform your doctor and family members about the existence and location of your advance directives document, so that it is easily accessible if it is ever needed. Advance directives, sometimes called living wills, are also possible in England and Wales. However, there is no guarantee they would be accepted in France, so if you are planning to move there permanently it is advisable to discuss the issue with your local doctor and put French directives anticipées in place for certainty and peace of mind.
Orignially published in Living France - March 2019 for Completefrance.com