We asked a lawyer, a translation company and a financial adviser to highlight how using an English speaking service can not only smooth a potentially complicated process but can actually save you both time and money.
Left to right: Amanda Bloomfield is a senior financial adviser at DeVere, Paul Muxlow is a director at PleaseHelp.fr, Sarah Bright Thomas is a partner with Bright Avocats.
Residence and tax factors can mean that not everyone is confident in making their own financial decisions and language issues may actually prevent them from making the correct ones.
Financial advice covers savings, investments, getting a mortgage, arranging your pension, saving tax, protecting your family, etc. To be sure that the advice is impartial and has your best interests at heart, you need to talk to an English-speaking independent or whole-of-market financial adviser (IFA).
Unlike a free guidance service, or online information, an IFA will take account of your personal circumstances and make clear recommendations. Very different from people employed by banks, building societies and insurance companies, IFAs have no connection to providers, so they offer you the best choice from the whole of the market, and their only responsibility is to you, their customer.
If you have British roots it may be best to choose an adviser who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as standards of local financial advice vary hugely across the world. Unlike in the UK, in many places advisers are not properly regulated.
You are likely to face several big financial decisions in your life; buying a home, starting a pension and planning retirement. Getting these right can have dramatic long-term benefits, so seeking financial advice is always helpful and may even be essential.
Arriving in France, with a different administrative system, is not always easy and, without caution and the appropriate language skills, people can come unstuck.
Even if they can speak French, the likelihood is that they will not fully understand the administrative system or the parameters which are constantly changing.
Assistance with translation goes a long way towards helping but a fully-fledged service that combines the correct use of the language with local knowledge goes much further and can save both time but money.
For instance, instead of walking into a garage, worrying if you are going to be “ripped off”, it can be comforting to know that you have expert guidance behind you, with a recommendation based on local knowledge and experience.
A visit to the tax office can see you sent away, only to return time and time again, still not achieving your goal. However, someone who understands the taxation system, as well as your situation, can make a phone call or accompany you on the visit and your problem can be solved. Time and money saved and, usually, a reduced tax bill too.
It is all about contacts and know-how. Why spoil the excitement of the move to this beautiful part of the world with the heartache and frustration that comes from trying to go it alone?
It should come as no surprise that the legal language is opaque. In every country, in every language, legal terms are mostly specific to legal cases or legal related matters. This means that, even if you live in France and speak French properly, there is a good chance that you will not understand legal issues, but it is crucial that you do.
You should not enter into a contract, create a company or be part of a legal dispute if you do not understand all the terms and their implications. This is why you should seek the assistance of a legal professional who speaks English.
Do you know the difference between a “compromis” and a “promesse de vente” in a property sale? Do you know your liability if you build or renovate your own property, even if a professional is involved? Do you know the difference between a “testament” and a “donation au dernier vivant” when it comes to planning the future with your spouse? All these terms have very different meanings and real life implications which you should understand.
For example, if you are divorced and remarried, the “donation au dernier vivant” of your estate will have automatically disappeared with your divorce. However, with a “testament” your ex-wife will still inherit if you have not modified the “testament” after the divorce.
You can you see how a simple error in understanding the legal terms could create a world of trouble between your ex and your new wife.
Using a legal professional who speaks English not only ensures that you understand everything but it also ensures that your wishes are perfectly respected.
First published in the November/December issue of The Local Buzz