What does a notaire do?

A full guide to the role of the French notaire, when you will need one and how much they charge

AS REPRESENTATIVES of the state, notaires are tasked with giving an official character to the legal documents they draw up.

They are required to give useful advice to their clients, which is another factor which gives the client security in a time of increasing legal and financial complexity.

Finally, a notaire pledges to give an efficient service which will be as quick as possible despite the numerous national and international constraints which the law imposes on private individuals today.

When is it obligatory to use a notaire?

Since the drafting of the Code Civil in 1804, certain particularly important formalities have to be carried out using a notaire, without which they are considered void.

These include donations (formal gifts) and donations-partages (lifetime distribution of an estate among the presumptive heirs), the creation or cancellation (mainlevée) of a mortgage, marriage contracts, officially-recorded wills etc.

More recently it has been decided a number of other formalities have to be notarised so the notaire can clarify that both parties consent.

Examples include deeds revoking a mandat (power of attorney agreement) between spouses, for sale of a property which is not yet built or for declaring a home as impossible to be seized by business creditors.

Another example would be the renunciation by heirs of their option to make a lump sum payment to an ex-spouse of the deceased in settlement of his/ her right to the prestation compensatoire.

This relates to payments imposed to reduce disparity in living conditions between ex-spouses.

In a case where the heirs do not want to pay a lump sum to settle this they have to continue to make regular payments instead.

Some other formalities that need to be notarised are creating transferable agricultural tenancies, formalising the renunciation by presumptive heirs of their future rights to exercise an action en reduction (where heirs claim back part of an excessive lifetime gift by the deceased which has detracted from their legal share of the inheritance) or the provisional renunciation of the right to exercise an action en retranchement (action by children of a previous marriage to recover property from a spouse).

Reinforced formalities

For certain acts, the law requires the presence of two witnesses or a second notaire.

This applies to, for example, drawing up a notarised will, revoking a will or a power of attorney for the revocation of a will.

It should be noted however that it is possible to revoke a will by another will made in the “holographic" form, that is one that is written and dated by the testator and signed by him or her.

The Connexion publishes a 10-page helpguide in association with the Conseils des Notaires explaining in full the role of a notaire, when you need one and how much you can expect to pay

It includes information on:

- Getting preliminary advice
- The formalities involved
- The drafting and signing of a notarised deed
- A table of notaires' fees for property sales, mortgages and inheritance

You can buy the helpguide, priced €7.50, from this link.

To find an English-speaking notaire near you visit www.notaires.fr - click on the Union Jack then “find a notaire.”