The notary's main areas of intervention

Updated on Friday 17 February 2023

The Ordinance dated November 2, 1945, defines the notary's mission as follows:
"Notaries are the public officers established to receive deeds and contracts to make these authentic, are attached to acts of public authority, and to ensure the date, keep the deposit, issue grosses and expeditions thereof."


Receipt, authentication, and preservation of authentic instruments

The notary's essential mission is to authenticate and preserve agreements. 

  • an authentic instrument is an instrument drawn up in accordance with the required formalities by a competent public officer. Authentic instruments can be drawn up on paper or electronically. Among public officials (court clerks, court commissioners), only notaries are competent to authenticate agreements, between private parties. 
  • The minute is the original deed, which must be kept by the notary, who may not, in principle, relinquish it. The parties receive authenticated or enforceable copies or simple photocopies.
  • The expedition, or authentic copy, is the literal copy of the original deed, signed by the notary and bearing his seal.
  • The "grosse" or enforceable copy is an authentic copy, bearing the notary's signature, its seal, and the executory formula in the same form as court judgments. This copy enables the parties to enforce the deed without having to go to court, by using a bailiff.

 The notary is obliged to keep the minutes, as well as any private deeds (such as divorce agreements signed by lawyers) deposited in the notary's office. They must be kept for 75 years, or 100 years if one of the parties is a minor, after which time, the deeds become public archives that can be freely consulted. Notaries must then deposit their deeds in the national or departmental archives (Art. L 213-2, I C. of the heritage). 

Electronic authentic instruments are recorded in a central registry accessible only to the notary, holding the instrument; this registry is established and controlled by the Superior council of notaries (D. n° 71-941, 26 nov. 1971, art. 28, al. 2 and 3)

The notary's national jurisdiction

Notaries exercise their functions throughout France, with the exception of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, the Wallis and Futuna Islands, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (article 8, paragraph 1, of decree no. 71-942 of November 26, 1971).

The notary's general expertise

Unlike judicial commissioners or court clerks, who have special skills, notaries have general skills: they are legal generalists with a global vision on legal problems.
It is involved in the entire legal and tax field, which makes the latter naturally competent to advise its clients. The European Court of Justice has described it as an "amicable magistrate".

In all these fields, and regardless of their specificity, the legal consumer will benefit from the notary's services:

  • expert advice, 
  • liability coverage, 
  • legal analysis, 
  • a fixed price or, in certain fields (companies, real estate negotiation), free fees which must be the subject of an agreement.
  • and the legal certainty provided by the probative force of the authentic deed, compared with any other private or countersigned deed.

Notaries may obtain a certificate of specialization, provided they have practiced for at least 4 years and have passed an examination.

The notary and family deeds


  • This is its traditional field of activity: marriage contracts, donations between spouses, shared gifts, wills, inheritance, post-divorce settlement. As a result, the State imposes certain obligations on it, and the client has particular expectations.
  • What the State expects out of notaries: registration of wills with the central register of last wills and testaments, authenticity for certain important deeds, documents are kept for 75 years, or 100 years if the deed concerns a minor.
  • What the legal client expects:
    • that authenticity produces its effects: probative value (origin, content, and date), opposability to third parties through land registration and enforceability...
    • impartial advice on family and personal matters
  • For more information, see Couple and family and Donations and inheritance. 

The notary and real estate

This is an important area of notarial activity: sales negotiation, property valuation, drafting of pre-contracts and deeds of sale, etc....
What the State expects of notaries:

  • rigorous management of its real estate file (Property advertising service),
  • tax collection, including capital gains tax on real estate sales,
  • effective participation in the battle against money laundering:

According to article L561-2 13 of the French Monetary and Financial Code, notaries, like lawyers, are subject to anti-money laundering obligations under the conditions set out in article L 561-3 of the mentioned code. 

In addition, notaries are required to declare to Tracfin: "amounts entered in their books or transactions involving amounts of which they know, suspect or have reasonable grounds to suspect that they originate from an offence punishable by a custodial sentence of more than one year or are linked to the financing of terrorism. " (Article L561-15 of the French Monetary and Financial Code)

Notaries cannot therefore invoke professional secrecy against Tracfin.

What consumers expect from the law:


  • certainty of ownership of the property through systematic research into the origin of ownership.
  • to be the "one-stop shop" in this field: the notary will be the almost-unique interlocutor in the field of sales.
  • that authenticity has its full effect: probative value (origin, content, and date), enforceability against third parties through land registration.
  • legal certainty.

For further information, see the Real Estate section and the guides: "Buying real estate: instructions for use" and "Selling real estate: instructions for use"."

The notary and enterprise


  • This is a lesser-known area of its activity, but one in which the notary possesses genuine expertise. Thanks to its global vision of the business owner's assets and family, it can propose the most appropriate legal and tax solutions, in terms of matrimonial property regimes, company incorporation, etc.....
  • What the State expects from the notary: protection of the principle of the unseizability of a company director's real estate assets, control of the legality of the European company
  • What consumers expect from the law:
  • for authenticity to produce its effects: probative value (origin, content, and date), opposability to third parties through land registration and enforceability.
  • protection of the principle of unseizability of real estate assets.
  • For more information, see the Company section.

The notary, rural law, and the environment


  • Thanks to the presence of notaries throughout the country, it is the main legal player in the rural world.
  • As such, they can offer tools designed to encourage farming:
  • creation of a "Agricultural fund", which enables the value of the farm to be estimated and facilitates its transfer,
  • signing an authenticated lease that can be transferred outside the family (i.e., other than to a spouse, civil union partner or descendants), subject to certain conditions. In particular, the contract must expressly state that both parties intend it to be subject to the special provisions of the chapter governing transferable leases outside the family, i.e., articles L418-1 et seq. of the French Rural Code.
  • For further information, please visit the Company / Agricultural company’s section.

The notary and local authorities

  • Notaries provide two types of services (often combined) to local authorities:
  • On the one hand, legal advice in the fields of town and country planning, environmental law, local authority law, etc.

For example, clarifying the scope of public ownership, or providing legal certainty for property transfers between local authorities.

  • On the other hand, the drafting of the deed and the associated liability.

For the cost of a deed, we offer advice, liability coverage and legal analysis at a fixed price. In fact, as an extension of the advice given, the notarial deed provides the Mayor with legal certainty.