Notaires... what advice can they give?

Good morning all.

We will soon be engaging with a Notaire to buy a house in the Dordogne with the intention of moving there full time. What I don’t understand is the role of the Notaire when it comes to setting up the property purchase structure to body swerve French inheritance laws and minimise inheritance tax.

Our situation is a little complex… there is an adult child from another relationship. So… if we go to our Notaire and say we want to set this property purchase up as achat croisé is our Notaire going to say “As you wish.” or will she say… "Actually that’s not the recommended method for your circumstances… I suggest you use "en tontine". So the question is… will a Notaire guide us to a suitable structure or will she just follow whatever we request?

On a separate quick query… Does anyone know if both buyers need to be present when a Compromis de Vente is signed? Both buyers are making an equal contribution to the purchase.

Also. Smiles. The 10% deposit paid when a “Compromis de Vente” is signed. Does that have to be in hands of the Notaire when the Compromis de Vente is signed or 10 days later?

Thank you for any help or enlightenment.

Notaires know inheritance law like the back of their hand. It’s what they do. Tell them what you want to achieve and they will tell you the possible ways of achieving it and explain the implications of each.


Thank you, Anna. That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

but it is not their job to tell you what to do without knowing what as @anon27586881 says it is your wish to achieve.
En Tontine is the generally accepted way of structuring the deal when there are children from other relationships in the mix.
We made our purchase En Tontine through our notaire without really understanding what it was - just that someone said it was was a good thing. Our Notaire shrugged his shoulders and set it up accordingly as we had asked for it but in the event, we later found out that as we did not have children from previous relationships (we both only married once - each other!) it was unnecessary but to undo it would require going through the whole process again.
But, it is no real issue for us. We only have one offspring and all that will happen is that the property will go to the survivor first as if that one of us had initially purchased to property in a sole capacity (if I now understand the process correctly!)

My notaire was proactive on this. My situation is very simple - single, no kids - so I wasn’t going to raise the issue, but she asked what my situation was and what my succession plans were and made sure I understood the implications of leaving anything to non relatives.

From what Graham has said, notaires vary!

Probably so but I asked for the clause so he did as he was asked. If I had not asked, I’m sure he would have just proceeded as ‘normal’.
He was an old school lawyer, tall, straight back, waxed moustache and a well respected pillar of society. Took the business over from his father and his son now runs the practice.
In fact, my type of lawyer I seem to recall saying at the time.

If you are (or were) unmarried, but do have some living relatives and are reluctant to pay big death duties, then a tontine can be useful to protect each other in case of the sudden death of one half. Without the tontine 60% inheritance tax would apply to a non-family member.

We have a complicated family structure and on the advice of the notaire my OH has just done a “testament mystique”. The notaire was very excited as he had never had reason to do one before. And you have to have two witnesses so two other notaires appeared as they were curious too as had never done one either. Nice to pay a large fee to give a notaire a new experience!

Normally money has to be with notaire on signing, and the 10 days is period when you can reflect and if need be ask for your money back. Some people waive a deposit.

And you can authorise someone else to act for you.

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But a testament mystique is just a secret will - sealed when written and then handed to the notaire who is not supposed to know anything about its contents (which is why it is the rarest because it is so easy to cock it up).

Well I can safely say that the one we used was useless for that kind of stuff. No advice whatsoever, despite being given the parameters and the questions. Pretty much left to our own devices.

Yes, but it is rarely used and there is apparently a form of words for the notaires to use as well as lots of red wax. Perhaps our notaire has a very dull life, but he was quite chuffed to do one! Lovely name too.

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That’s what we have been experiencing currently.

The 10% deposit may be customary , but it is not mandatory.
I negotiated our deposit to 5%.

We didn’t pay any deposit…