25 January 2014

Notaires et testaments

Yesterday Walt and I went to town for an appointment with the local notaire. In France, a notaire is a contracts lawyer who is licensed and appointed by the government to deal with "legal instruments" like last wills and testaments, deeds, and marriage contracts.

This Wikipedia article explains how the the notarial function in France and other Roman-law countries differs from the function of a "notary public" in common-law countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, including this introduction:
Civil-law notaries, or Latin notaries, are lawyers of noncontentious private civil law who draft, take, and record legal instruments for private parties, provide legal advice and give attendance in person, and are vested as public officers with the authentication power of the State.
Unlike notaries public, their common-law counterparts, civil-law notaries are highly trained, licensed practitioners providing a full range of regulated legal services, and whereas they hold a public office, they nonetheless operate usually—but not always—in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis.
[Civil-law notaries] often receive the same education as attorneys at civil law but without qualifications in advocacy, procedural law, or the law of evidence, somewhat comparable to solicitor training in certain common-law countries.
The purpose of Walt's and my visit to the notarial office was to find out how to go about drafting a legally binding testament in France. It turns out to be very simple in our case, because each of us wants to designate the other as his sole heir (or légataire universel).

It turns out to be a very simple process. We each have to write out our last will and testament by hand following this template or modèle that the notaire gave us:
        Je soussigné, Monsieur [prenoms NOM, profession] marié à [lieu] le [date], demeurant à [adresse], né à [lieu de naissance] le [date]
        Révoque toutes dispositions testamentaires antérieures,
        Et institue pour mon légataire universel Monsieur [prenoms NOM], demeurant à [adresse], né à [lieu de naissance] le [date].
        En cas de prédécès de ce dernier, l'ensemble de mes biens reviendra à [prenoms NOM], demeurant à [adresse], né à [lieu de naissance] le [date].

        Fait à [ville]
        Le [date]
After we have written out and signed the two testaments, we just put them in envelopes and include a check for 30 euros with each. That fee covers the registration of the wills in a French national registry and their storage in the notarial office's safe until they are needed. (I thought it was going to cost more than that.)

I had also thought that what we would need to do was sign a donation au dernier vivant (a.k.a. une donation entre époux) but the notary assured us that the testament was the best solution in our case, because neither of us has any children.


  1. Hope your marriage is now
    recognized in France. I think
    the US is getting closer and
    closer to federal law, doing
    away with this state-by-state

  2. even VA has joined the ranks of states that might one day soon recognize gay marriage since now the atty gen says the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional...yay....I hope NC isnt far behind (I'm not holding my breath tho)

  3. it wasnt until i was probably 30 years old that i figured out it wasn't "Noter Republic." just one of those weird things.

  4. Well, this is very good news. I know how important of an issue this has been for you. You'll rest more easily now.

    So, just to address this from a completely matter-of-fact manner: Is there a different kind of document that you would also have to put in place to cover what happens to your biens should you both die at the same time, or after the one who inherits first is gone? As things stand now, where would things go?

  5. Glad is was so inexpensive and easy to accomplish!

  6. Bon, les garçons, vous et moi, on côtoie les notaires, ces jours-ci ;-)

    Oui, la "donation au dernier des vivants" n'a de sens que si l'on a des enfants, c'est pour préserver son conjoint quand l'un des conjoints disparaît et éviter que celui qui survit soit dépossédé au bénéfice des enfants...


    Mary qui pense que la succession de son père se termine et qui est soulagée car le délai des 7 jours ouvrables pendant lequel l'acheteur de la maison de mon père pouvait se rétracter est terminée, ouf ! Et il a son prêt bancaire, donc, 2 fois "ouf" ;-)

  7. Ce sont de bonnes nouvelles, MJ. Surtout la vente de cette maison. Bises...

  8. Hi Judy, the last paragraph of the notaire's template takes care of the case where the sole heir dies first. Each of us specifies a "secondary" heir.

    Imagine this scenario that I read about on the web: each spouse in a childless couple designates the other as sole heir. Then both are killed in a car accident. Each has designated a different secondary heir. Who inherits? If the two heirs can't agree, it is up to the courts to decide which spouse died first in the accident... The heir of the one who lived the longest, even by minutes or seconds, is the inheritor. Kind of gruesome, I know, but... The solution is for both of us to designate the same secondary heir.

    If one of dies before the other does, the survivor can always go back to the notaire and draw up a new will, taking into account the changed realities.

  9. This is good news for both of you! Now you can have peace of mind because everything has been filed properly and to your satisfaction. It’s certainly a relief. It's always best to have one early, just in case something unexpected happens. You could always change it later on to include the finer points you want, but as of now, you don't have to worry about misunderstandings later on.



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