TRAVEL with pat and lew

Notaires and tontine

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

Some aspects of the mechanics of purchasing a property in France are important to our story.

our notaire 

France has strict procedures to protect both buyer and seller. Central to the transaction process is a public official called a notaire, not an attorney and not a notary public, but sharing attributes of both. We had read about notaires and their role in Hampshire’s book. Kristina, bless her, who by now is in Collioure, which is why we had to switch from her apartment after two weeks, recommends a notaire who speaks English. We make an appointment and drive to the next town of Argeles-sur-mer.


By this time, we have already signed a purchase agreement, although we still have the option to back out. The notaire’s office is modern and professional, and after meeting with him, we feel fully confident to go ahead. Our discussion includes something called a tontine agreement.

In the normal French real estate practice, if a husband and wife buy a property together, and one dies, the half interest goes, not to the surviving spouse, but is split equally among the children of the deceased spouse. We preferred that the property would revert to the surviving spouse, and to all six children equally when we are both deceased.

There is a provision which can be inserted into the purchase agreement, called a tontine, which allows the surviving spouse to receive the interest in the property. No one will tell you about it. No one will suggest it. Had we not read Hampshire’s book, we would not have known. But we do know, and our notaire agrees to incorporate a tontine provision in our agreement.

When we actually receive the papers, months later in New York, it does not include the tontine, and it takes a phone call to France and a revised agreement to finally get the agreement we want.


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