Which regime to buy our house under?

If all goes well we are moving in July, if not July, September. We are hoping to open a gallery to sell my husband's art in the medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn. I am French but am finding it hard to work my way through the French bureaucracy in preparation for the move (I left as a student, so in effect have never lived as an adult in France!). Even harder is working out which regime to buy our house under, as France is still stuck in medieval times as far as inheritance rights for wives is concerned. The solicitor even addresses their letters to my husband instead of my husband and me! I want to be the full owner of my own house if my husband dies before me, not his daughters from his first marriage, and that seems a bit of an alien concept over there. We're still determined to move, but it's so much more complicated to move there than it was to move to the UK 20 years ago!

We used Matthew Cameron, who at the time was working in Ipswich. He now works with Ashton KCJ Solicitors in Bury St Edmunds.

The intro when googling him reads as follows:

Matthew is internationally renowned for his expertise in French law. He advises on: Buying and selling French property, French inheritance matters, Taxation and Wills, so he sounds like he is your man.

It was on his advice that we undertook the change in marriage regime.

I hope you find this helpful and good luck.

Thank you for your tip Jane, and yes, if you know anyone good I wouldn't mind getting their contacts! Thank you Andrew for speaking to the bloke from the maaf. We got lucky and got a good quote from the Credit Agricole, actually, so that side is, thankfully, sorted. Just got to get our heada round the whole inheritance thing now... and hope that our own house sale doesn't fall through. It's always the worry in GB, isn't it, until the last minut your buyer could literally disappear and you're back to square 1. Hey ho, fingers and toes crossed, and touching wood at the same time...

Hi Laurence, just spoken to the bloke from the maaf - nothing new, they usually ask to visit the property...! Courage !

The most often used scheme is to change your marriage regime to Communaute Universelle, which ensures that all assets are retained by the survivor.
We did is when we bought in 2005. We signed the papers at the same time as we signed the Acte de Vente.
Speak to your Notaire about this.
If you want to ensure that your Notaire understands this, it might be useful to speak to a UK solicitor who is registered in both England and France and who specialises in property matters.
I can recommend someone if you would like.

No worries Laurence. The notaire usually address mail to one person, when my sister, brother and I inherited our dad's house, the mail was addressed to me as I'm the eldest. The law allowing children to put their own mother on the street was changed 25 years ago….

Thank you all for your informative comments. Sorry Marie-Claire if I offended you with my comment, but I have heard of children turfing their own mother out of her house on the father's death, and last month our notaire explained that I could enjoy the usufruit of my future house on my husband's death if he died first, and that feels so outrageous! I spoke to the notaire this morning and his advice is to buy the house with a tontine, which will give whichever one of us survives the other full ownership. Then we will look into me adopting his daughters in order to avoid them paying 60pc inheritance tax when I die. Complicated but doable... Wondering if he'll start addressing mail to me now rather than to my husband, as we have actually spoken...

Peter, you wouldn't need a separate SCI, but it wouldn't automatically cover all the property you have or acquire, especially as the SCI is not destined for profit-making ventures.

Sorry Marie-Claire, I thought one SCI could cover all properties, i'm sure I was told that by a notaire a few years back. So you would need a separate SCI for each property ?

Peter and Simon, an SCI would not cover all properties, you need to create it, and then buy property in its name, then split the shares. If you have a mortgage, it can be complicated In our good old medieval France, your spouse automatically has the right to stay on your property until he/she dies, and then your children inherit. Bequeathing anything to anybody else is expensive (for the person who inherits) and only possible for up to 25% of your assets. There is a tontine system with the SCI, but it only works if the piece of real estate isn't worth more than 76000. Not much.

As long as you live the house will be yours, or your husband's if you die first. We have been busy moving on from medieval times while you were away. Good luck to both of you in this backward realm!

Sounds good advice from Simon as I believe the same SCI would cover any other properties bought by you two.


Set up an S.C.I. Distribute the shares equally among yourself, your husband and whoever else (your children? his children?) you like. Make a French will with the notaire bequeathing your shares in the SCI to your husband ... or to whom you like.