Q&A: Transfer of property ownership under the tontine clause

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Matthew Cameron of AshtonKCJ Solicitors offers advice

Q: My wife and I purchased a house in France en tontine. We have now separated and our divorce has just been finalised, but I’m not sure how to proceed as I now have to have the ownership transferred to me only. I believe I need an estimate for this to take place to put to the English court, but the notaire wants information before doing this to assign half of the value to my ex-wife. Where do I go from here?

Matthew Cameron replies:

It is perhaps an unfortunate fact that we are asked to assist on divorces with a cross-border element with increasing regularity. It is certainly the case that care should be taken when completing the divorce paperwork (such as the Consent Order and Decree Absolute) to ensure that there are no unanticipated tax consequences in France.

The notaire’s fees are calculated by reference to the value of the property included in the Consent Order: this Order should be drafted so that the notaire can therefore only calculate his or her fees by reference to the French property. Thus a form of the draft documentation should be agreed with the notaire, before being placed before the English court.

Given that various complications can arise in the process, the parties may choose to instruct jointly a separate solicitor in the UK to ensure that the transfer proceeds in the correct manner. While this would add extra cost to the divorce, it should ensure that the potential pitfalls are avoided.