INTERVIEW WITH FRÉDÉRIC DUCOURAU
Notary in Arcachon, from the firm SCP DUCOURAU.
By Stéphane Alaux, E Reputation Expert
Founder of E Réputation Net Wash
Frédéric Ducourau talks to us about the property market in the Bay of Arcachon and the importance of preparing one’s estate.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRAINING AND BACKGROUND?
Maître Frédéric Ducourau : My professional training took place initially at the University of Bordeaux. After obtaining a master’s degree in private law, I joined the professional training centre of BORDEAUX to obtain my notary diploma in 1990. My professional training began in September 1986 at the Boulevard de la Plage office in Arcachon. I became a partner in 1992 in this notary’s office which I have not left for 32 years…
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SPORT WAS PART OF YOUR LIFE FROM A VERY EARLY AGE I THINK?
Master Frédéric Ducourau : Indeed, from a very young age, I have practised athletics with happiness and enthusiasm, particularly pole vaulting. I was the Aquitaine record holder in the Benjamin category. At the same time I was sailing in canoeing and I chose to concentrate on this sport. I did a sport-study. This allowed me to become several times French Champion in Slalom and Downhill, in cadets.
However, I put down my paddle to turn with the same energy to study Law.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE AND INTERESTING WORK EXPERIENCE?
Frédéric Ducourau: My job has given me the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people. Artists, professional sportsmen, captains of industry. I have kept friendly relations with some of them over the years, but you will understand that I cannot give you their names.
TELL US ABOUT THE THREE KEY AREAS OF YOUR PRACTICE: DONATIONS, INHERITANCE AND ESTATE PLANNING.
Frédéric Ducourau: The “donations, successions and estate planning” department is part of a sector of activity called “family law”.
This is a very important area which allows clients who are preparing their inheritance to make very substantial tax savings compared to clients who are inherited by death.
It is a very rewarding activity that requires a lot of listening in order to propose solutions that are fiscally interesting but also civilly adapted.
You have to take the time to listen to the families in order to propose tailor-made solutions. This activity requires a lot of technical skills but also a lot of humanity and professional experience. This is the heart of the job where a good professional can have a lot of added value.
I really enjoy working on these issues of transferring professional and/or private assets.
YOU YOURSELF ARE A SPECIALIST IN CONSTRUCTION LAW.
Frédéric Ducourau: Construction law, i.e. “sales of buildings to be constructed”, is an important pillar of our Notary’s Office. Certainly boosted by the number of residences that have sprung up in our beautiful region, we have accompanied many property developers in their development.
I have created a department dedicated to this activity, which only deals with this specific activity 365 days a year. My employees are therefore perfectly operational and are on the same wavelength as the developers’ back offices.
HOW LONG HAS THE STUDY BEEN IN EXISTENCE?
Maître Frédéric Ducourau : The office on Boulevard de la Plage in Arcachon was transferred from Gujan-Mestras to Arcachon in 1945.
It has about sixty employees, 5 associate notaries and 6 salaried notaries.
As part of the quality approach, it is certified ISO 9001, a label that only a very small percentage of French notary offices hold. This means that all our procedures are written down and are subject to continuous control as to their effectiveness, with progress sheets and client ratings.
Of course, we practice electronic signature of our notarial acts. (Dematerialised deeds)
We have three permanent offices, Arcachon, Biganos and Gujan-Mestras, which welcome private and professional clients, traders and craftsmen as well as local authorities by appointment.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE LOYALTY OF THE CLIENTS OF A NOTARY’S OFFICE?
Frédéric Ducourau: Client loyalty must be earned on a daily basis, like a chef who puts his reputation on the line with each service.
It is our daily priority to serve the client to make him want to come back to the office for his next act. Of course, not everything goes as smoothly as we would like, and we sometimes have “bugs”, but we work daily to solve them and prevent them from happening again.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROPERTY MARKET IN THE ARCACHON BASIN?
Maître Frédéric Ducourau : It’s a tense market, given the increase in population in the Arcachon basin, prices have risen regularly, which poses a housing problem, particularly for the local population, some of whom are obliged to move away from their commune of origin, where they work, but can no longer bear the price of acquisitions or even rentals.
THE MACRON LAW, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ITS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
Frédéric Ducourau: The Macron law has been an earthquake in the profession by allowing the installation of notary graduates by drawing lots! We are not yet in a position to consider all the consequences of this new situation, but the installations have begun.
It seems to me that in the near future there will be groupings of studies in the same way as has happened with medical analysis laboratories.
In any case, this is a somewhat destabilising but very interesting period, and I am convinced that opportunities will arise for our Office.
REGARDING INHERITANCE TAX, PREPARING YOUR ESTATE IS ESSENTIAL IN TERMS OF TAXATION?
Frédéric Ducourau: Preparing one’s estate is always extremely interesting from a tax point of view, but one must not forget the civil aspect of things. Making a shared donation allows you to pass on assets to your children during your lifetime and to allocate them separately and not in joint ownership. It is the guarantee of preserved family cohesion, as the division is carried out under the authority of the donor and in his presence.
But the purpose of your question seemed to be to evoke the fiscal interest of a prepared transmission compared to a transmission suffered by death.
The donor can make a donation of all or part of his assets, with a reservation of usufruct which will have a double effect.
It protects the donor, who will retain the use or income of the property transmitted if it is rented, but also irrevocably transmits the said property at the value on the day of the donation (and not the value on the day of death), itself reduced by the value of the usufruct retained by the donor.
Let’s take a numerical example.
A flat with a value of €600,000 on the day of the donation belonging to a 67-year-old couple. We can imagine that it will be worth 800,000€ at the death of the two parents who have only one child.
A) If the donation is currently made with a reserved usufruct, each parent gives 300,000€ in full ownership, i.e. taking into account the reserved usufruct which is valued at 40%, the donee receives 180,000€ from each parent. He benefits from an allowance of 100,000€, i.e. 80,000€ taxable per parent, on which the gift tax is 20% minus 1806€ to take into account the first brackets. In short, €28,388 of tax to be paid, which can also be paid by the donor parents without generating new taxation.
B) If the inheritance is made by the death of the parents, the duties will amount to 116,388€.
The cost of the transfer will be multiplied by 3.3.
The figures are implacable, a prepared transmission is infinitely more bearable than a transmission suffered.
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL VIEW ON THE JOHNNY HALLIDAY CASE?
Frédéric Ducourau: Concerning Johnny Hallyday’s succession, the legal problem is to know which law is applicable, that of French law which recognises the hereditary reserve, that is to say that one cannot disinherit a child, or that of Californian law which allows one to bequeath what one wants to whomever one wants.
Laëtitia’s lawyers will try to show that their client was an American resident for several years, that his last two daughters went to school in the US…
David and Laura’s lawyers will try to prove that their father’s economic interests were located in France where he had his public (and therefore his income), where he lived the last months of his life, worked, was treated, died and even buried.
I note, however, that even if French law were to apply, it should be remembered that :
– There is no inheritance tax between spouses, with no limit on the amount.
– Laëtitia Hallyday is 42 years old. The capitalization of her usufruct amounts to 60% of the estate.
– If she benefits from a simple gift between spouses, she can opt for a share of 1/4 in full ownership and 3/4 in usufruct of her husband’s estate.
Together this represents 70% of the estate, with the remainder going to each child in quarters, i.e. 7.5% each.
In short, David and Laura’s rights would only amount to 15% of the estate assets, from which the donations made by their father during his lifetime would have to be deducted, unless they were considered, in particular for Laura, to have been granted as a duty of support.
In conclusion, even if the arrangements made in California were not effective, French law would allow the wishes of the deceased to be respected in almost all cases.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR THE COMING YEARS?
Frédéric Ducourau: We consider that the reform of our profession is a source of constraints but also of opportunities.
We are studying the transformation of our professional partnership into a new structure that would allow us to take stakes in other law firms or other activities considered related or complementary to our current activity.
This would also allow us to associate deserving collaborators, whether or not from our SCP.
We will certainly have the opportunity to say more about this within two years.
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