Please can anyone tell me if these actually work i.e the property passes to the surviving spouse rather than to the family. Sorry if you're bored with seeing this but still hoping for some answers. Thanks.

Thanks again everyone for all your detailed replies.

Chris, what are the other ways and what are their merits compared to 'en tontine'.

Actually children generally inherit when the surviving spouse die - so they haven't lost out forever. just have to wait a bit longer!!

fair point Chris, but it's an arrangement that all notaires are sympathetic to or even understand, in my experience. With the possibility of disinherited stepchildren suddenly coming on the scene and demanding their share (and a friend is currently in this situation, NOT having made a tontine..) then to find a watertight arrangement, and to be certain that it will stand legal challenges, is a good idea and to ask others for their experiences and advice.

Why do you all like giving each other nightmares. A tontine is a simple arrangement, and has the same meaning in English as in French - two or more people own a property jointly - i.e. they all own the whole property. When one dies, it belongs to the survivor[s]. It is, however, in Frnech law, not the only way that married couples can own a property jointly, so that the survivor retains the whole.

yes yes and yes. I've bought two houses, en tontine, with my husband. Now we're both still alive so have never actually tested the principle but, on each occasion, I have gone through this with the notaire - does the property pass entirely, unencumbered, to the survivor? Yes, absolutely. In fact the first notaire went to great lengths to tell my husband that, in doing a tontine, he had disinherited his children and was he absolutely sure that this was his wish?

In our second house, again, we bought en tontine and I spent about an hour grilling the (different) notaire about the ins and outs of it. The only complication with a tontine is if you are not married, then inheritance taxes may be payable. But if you're married then no taxes are payable (below a certain threshold I think, but you have to be talking serious millions").

Recently, in discussion with some people, someone poo-pooed the tontine. They said it was held in trust for the survivor then passed to the first deceased's family. I argued the case, but it put doubt in my mind. So I went to a (third) notaire, paid for his time and asked, again, about the legal standing of a tontine. Again, it passes absolutely to the survivor, often to the chagrin and disappointment of the deceased's children who are standing by watching it slip through their hands forever.

Naturally you should never take legal advice from the internet, and find out for yourself. But I've paid three notaires, in different regions, for this advice and received the same answer. It's watertight. I hope this gives you some reassurance and hopefully some other people will answer with specific case examples. As I said, we're both alive so it hasn't been tested. But in the event of a death I would go to one of those notaires and expect them to handle the property as per their specific advice.

We are changing our marriage regime, so that on first death the surviving spouse inherits everything, then on second death the kids get everything, we looked at a tontine but after alot of thought decided this was best as the surviving spouse has full control over the assets of the marriage, so can sell if needed. Seek advice from an english speaking notaire.

thank you everyone for your help. It still seems very fuzzy where nothing seems definite. Worrying when you HAVE to do it when purchasing a property with the notaire. Understand you can't do it afterwards.

Sheryl - btw if you still need an Eng speaking lawyer try Guillaume Barlet on SFN - comes highly recommended! x

Yes but watch out .If you have children from a previous marriage and get a Tontine placed. Then go on to have a child with your partner you have the tontine with then this child gains 50%. In other words i have done this and now if my partner the father dies i have to share the house with my child and will not be able to sell until my child is 18 with his signature. be careful!!! my other 2 children from my previous marriage still get nothing.

Find it, print it out (French will be available) and slap a copy on his desk. There is a legal beagle thing about never catching up on laws, notaires and lawyers alike, so shame them into action. You still get the same bill but with a bit of smug satisfaction.

Yes, indeed. As soon as I heard that the law had been ratified by the EU in July, I asked our Notaire to set up the document - but he had not yet heard about it!

He told me to come back next year - and reminded me that we should also be making our wills, with or without the Certificate! Either with a notaire or a holistic one. It doesn't cost much with the notaire and I'm always afraid that some point won't be quite clear if I've done it myself in a holistic will. Especially as wills written by experts can be disputed! Good luck!

Thanks for all your advice. It still seems very confusing and hard to get a definitive answer. Will have a look on the notaires site, thanks for that.

One last question, when the new EU law comes in in 2015 presumably that will require a new legal document drawn up by the notaire where you can select french or english inheritance law.

Thanks for all your advice.

Yup - that's what I've read too! You can at least leave your possessions to whomsoever you want, but, by Golly, they'll be taxed! I would imagine that M Hollande will want to raise that tax too, just as soon as he gets around to it.

That's very odd! That would be the usual case if the property were purchased just in two names, without the Tontine. But it is true that one is given very different answers to everything each time one asks! For the definitive, go to www.notaires-de-france. - sorry can't remember the exact address - google it - and they have explanations in French (of course) but some pages in English. Many Notaires are not aware of the exact workings of the Tontine as they do not use it frequently - French hetero couples are not permitted to use it; it was introduced mainly for gay couples in a pacs. So I've been told by French friends.

We have the same situation as Glen - my husband has two children (both over 40!) and I have none. So we have also signed a "Donation entre Epoux" which ensures that everything else goes to the surviving partner too, without inheritance tax, and cost only around €80 Notaire fee.

Hope that is useful

Thanks so much for your advice. Sounds like it does hold protection for each party. We've been married for nearly 40 years so I guess we should be o.k.

Thanks again

We have bought with a Tontine twice now in the last 11 years. Each time we have had the explanation that a Tontine ensures that each party owns 100% of the property. When one partner dies, it is as though he/she never existed and the remaining partner is left in sole possession of the property. No inheritance tax, of course, as he/she already owns it 100%. One drawback of the Tontine would be if one party wished to sell and the other didn't - a sale requires that both agree and there are both signatures on the contract.

I have read that children (of a previous marriage) have challenged this in court but only when it was a very recent marriage and it could be shown that one partner (the deceased) invested much more than the other.

I hope these Notaires were correct!!!as we must wait until 2015 to have the European Certificate where ex-pats may choose which inheritance laws they wish to apply to them - either French or UK.

I don't actually know. What I do know is that the long term remarriage wife of a house my wife has dealings with, has legal challenges from the daughters of the first marriage although they got on perfectly well with the second wife. The idea was to sell the house, but since neither side can agree the second wife is stuck with a large house she cannot cope with and her stepdaughters neither want it for either of them nor want to sell it!