Should we use a French Notaire to make our Will? Ask the Experts


Expert FAQs

Should we use a French Notaire to make our Will? Ask the Experts

Charlotte Macdonald provides advice on some issues that might arise regarding the regulations surrounding wills and property for Brits buying and living in France.

Can we use a UK-Based company to make our will in France?

We are ready to make our wills here in France. Are we obliged to do this with a French notaire or can we use a UK-based company (our language skills are poor, as is our understanding of the French legal system!)?

You are not obliged to make your wills in France with a notaire. If you are British, you can use a UK-based company to assist you.

It is highly advisable to use solicitors experienced in international and cross-border work. They can ensure that the will they write for you not only achieves your goals (insofar as that is possible), but also that it is valid for use in France and that it fits well with your UK will. They will also be able to advise on your inheritance tax position and how the Anglo/French inheritance tax treaty applies to you.

How long does a French property purchase take?

Given the reputation that France has for slow-moving bureaucracy, how long can we expect to wait between agreeing to buy a property and getting the keys and being able to move in?

Many variables can affect how long a property purchase might take in France. The timescale of the process is often determined by third parties who have to provide information and/or permissions.

For example, the seller will have to provide you with several diagnostics regarding the property. Depending on the age of the building, the number of these can vary. If you are buying a flat, additional documentation will be required from the co-ownership company.

The local town hall may have pre-emption rights, and until they have formally declined to buy the property, the sale of it to you cannot go through.

If all goes very smoothly, a purchase in France could take around two months. However, it might take up to five months or more if any of the parties involved (surveyors, notaires, co-ownership company, town hall, mortgage provider and so on) are slow in producing the required documentation.

What are Conditions Suspensives in France?

We are going to Calvados on a property-buying trip in a couple of months, but are unsure about conditions suspensives. What are these and could they cause us problems?

Conditions suspensives are conditional clauses contained in the sale agreement (compromis de venteor promesse de vente). Both the buyer and seller can agree to include them in the contract. If any of the conditional clauses remain unfulfilled by the specified date, the buyer/seller (depending on the clause not fulfilled) can walk away from the deal.

Obtaining a suitable mortgage is a common condition for a buyer to ask to be included. The contract will specify a time limit by which the buyer must have found a mortgage and if they can’t find one, the sale will fail. Although, if you are having difficulties securing a mortgage, you may be able to negotiate an extension. But watch out – if you do not notify the seller within the specified time limit, you may be subject to financial penalties.

If you are buying a doer-upper in France, the purchase should be conditional on obtaining planning permission and if there is no time to complete the buildings survey before signing the contract, you should specify that the purchase is conditional on no defects being revealed in the survey. You should discuss conditions suspensives with your notaire as early as possible in the buying process.

For more information about the cross border treatment of your civil partnership, wills or inheritance tax please contact the international and cross-border team at Stone King LLP – Charlotte Macdonald, Dan Harris, Raquel Ugalde, Emma Seaton, Bryony Anning or Graeme Beattie, either by calling +44(0)1225 337599 or by emailing [email protected].

Article written by Charlotte Macdonald and trainee solicitor Bryony Anning.

Lead photo credit : Shutterstock

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