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Reader question: How can I find English-speaking lawyers and accountants in France?

If you have a complicated legal or financial situation you will probably want to take professional advice - but what's the best way to find an English-speaking lawyer, notaire or accountant in France?

Reader question: How can I find English-speaking lawyers and accountants in France?
The gold shield of the notaire. Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Even if your French is perfectly competent for daily life, when it comes to complicated and technical matters such as taxes, legal disputes or making a will, you might prefer to go to an English-speaking professional, just to be sure that you have understood everything correctly.

But how do you go about finding the help that you need?

The first thing is establishing exactly what type of expert you are looking for;

Notaire – if your question deals with either property or wills, then you probably want a notaire.

If you’re buying or selling property, this cannot be done without a notaire, as only the notaire can register a change of ownership on the French land registry. However, it’s worth knowing that your notaire will not give you legal advice and/or point out any potential problems with the sale unless you specifically engage them for that purpose, as this is not their traditional role in French property-buying. 

Peculiarities of the French inheritance system mean that it’s wise to have a notaire check over your will to see if it will be valid in France and avoid any future problems for your heirs. 

READ ALSO 8 times you’ll need a notaire in France

Avocat – if you are having any issues with the criminal justice system, or you want to sue someone, then you will likely want an avocat (and yes, avocat means both lawyer and avocado in French, lawyers are probably sick of this joke).

READ ALSO How to find a lawyer in France

Expert comptable – when it comes to accountants, there are also two types and the most common is the expert comptable. This is who you want if you need help in filling in your French tax declaration, or you have encountered a problem with the tax office and need some advice. 

If you have a business, only an expert comptable can advise you when it comes to completing your businesses tax declarations

Fiscaliste – a fiscaliste is a specialist tax adviser, they are more likely to be retained by larger businesses to give advice about tax structures of the company etc

Ask the expert: How can I get professional help with my French taxes?

Do you need professional help?

It’s really up to you, and if your affairs are unusual or complicated then it’s definitely better to seek professional help.

However bear in mind that systems like the tax declaration, visa application and citizenship applications are all designed to be accessed by individuals without professional help – and even if you do instruct a lawyer or accountant to help with these you will still have to assemble your dossier yourself.

There are plenty of places you can go for advice, including the Practical Tips section of The Local, and – for taxes – your local tax office.

5 tips for dealing with the French tax office 

How to find an English-speaker 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single directory of accredited, English-speaking lawyers and accountants in France, but here are some suggestions for getting started.

If you’re looking for an avocat, the BritishAmerican, and Australian embassies all have extensive lists of recommended English-speaking lawyers in France (by region and speciality). It’s worth checking the recommendations of all the anglophone embassies to find the widest choice of lawyers in your area.

If you’re looking for a notaire there is a directory of all the accredited notaires in France HERE which you can search by town or postcode to find one near you. Click on the ‘langues parlées‘ tab and select English to find English-speaking ones. The US Embassy also has a list of English-speaking notaires as well. You can find it HERE.

As with the English-speaking doctors listed on Doctolib, this is based on their own description of their language skills. If you decide after a meeting that their English is not up to the task, just politely make your excuses and find someone else.

Accredited experts comptables and fiscalistes are listed HERE, although unfortunately this doesn’t have a language filter, so it’s better for cross-checking that anyone recommended to you is correctly qualified and accredited.

Facebook groups can also be a good resource – especially Strictly Legal France for lawyers and Strictly Fiscal France for accountants – but remember that just because someone has been recommended, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check their qualifications first. 

And finally, be extremely wary of unsolicited financial advice – especially involving pensions, since sadly many scammers target foreigners who have retired to France with advice to ‘transfer’ their pensions.

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