Notaires–A Centuries-Old Profession

Notaires–A Centuries-old Profession


PARLER PARIS: PARIS PROPERTY INSIDER


Enhanced web-edition online at:
/parlerparis/property


September 12, 2002


UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF THE NOTAIRE


Dear Paris Property Insider Reader,


Discussion of any real estate topic is not possible without at least
mentioning the "notaire." Knowing a bit of background about notaires
and their profession will help you not only understand their
importance to real estate transactions, but in French society as
well.


The role of the notaire in French society dates back to the third
century. Its existence as a profession began in 1539 by order of
François I. Long established as the givers of advice in a wide range
of areas (notaires are effectively the general practitioners of the
law), notaires were among the few officers of the government to
survive the Revolution. As providers of special advisory services for
families and companies, notaires today see 15 million people every
year and draft more than 4 million instruments.


Notaires are public officers appointed by the Minister of Justice and
supervised by the Ministry. They are impartial witnesses to
agreements and the instruments they draft (known as "actes
authentiques notarié") which have the same status as court judgments.
Notaires also archive the instruments they prepare, making them easy
to produce when needed.


While I normally talk about them in the context of real estate
transactions, the notaire’s expertise also covers family and marital
issues, companies of all types, international private law, town
planning, consumer law, contract law, tort and quasi-contract and
statutory obligations, tax law, mortgage law and many others.
Notaires are there to clarify issues and advise their clients on the
most appropriate legal process for their circumstances and on the
consequences of their commitments. Much like attorneys, all
information is treated as confidential and they are subject to a
strict code of ethics.


Foreigners often mistakenly equate a notaire with a notary. The
requirements to be a notaire demonstrate that this is not the case.
Candidates must have French nationality. Additionally, there are
academic requirements:


* A Master of Law degree (or a diploma recognized as equivalent for
the purpose of practicing as a notaire);


* The "Diplôme d’aptitude aux fonctions de notaire" (Notaires’
diploma) and a certificate showing successful completion of a
training period or the "Diplôme supérieur du notariat" (Notaires’
higher diploma).


There are further requirements for personal fitness:


* Candidates must show they have no criminal convictions for offences
showing a lack of honor or integrity or involving actions contrary to
accepted standards of behavior;


* They must show they have not committed any similar actions which
led to their being forced to take compulsory retirement or to a
disciplinary or administrative sanction leading to dismissal, or loss
of approval or authorization;


* They must show they have never been involved in bankruptcy or been
subject to any other sanction pursuant to any statutory provisions
relating to insolvency proceedings or the judicial liquidation of a
company.


So, you can see there is obviously a difference.


A notaire’s involvement is a service. Like any other service it
involves a cost… the cost borne by the client. What do notaires’
costs cover? Sums paid to notaires, often incorrectly referred to as
"notaires’ fees," consist mainly of taxes due to the public revenue
department (depending on the nature of the transaction), followed by
any disbursements, and last of all, the notaire’s remuneration.


The notaire’s "fee" is strictly regulated and fixed by decree and
covers all the guarantees and services provided by notaire. The
policy behind this is that fixed prices give clients equal access to
the public service provided by notaires. Notaires’ accounts are
subject to strict rules which guarantee the security of monies
deposited by clients. Even as a foreigner you should feel secure.
Hopefully, providing a little background de-mystifies the notaire
profession for you and gives you a better understanding of the role
they play. In next week’s Paris Property Insider I’ll discuss in more
detail the specific role the notaire has in real estate
transactions.
A bientôt,


Schuyler Hoffman
Editor, Paris Property Insider
E-mail: mailto:propertyinsider@internationalliving.com


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