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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I recently visited my sick father in France. My father remarried and retired from London life to France with his second wife. His wife has 3 adult sons from her first marriage and has always tried to keep my brother and myself as far away from my father as possible.

During my extremely emotional visit she told me that he has left everything to her and that she will be leaving it to her 3 sons. I was so shocked and upset I said nothing. I always thought that we would have a difficulty with this but I did not think this is possible.

If the house is in her name and he has left everything else to her is she correct?

Does it make a difference that before he was diagnosed they shared a house and since he was diagnosed they moved to a house and put it in her name (I think).

It is true what they say in the fairy tales!!
 

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What nationality is the second wife? Because what she's telling you doesn't entirely make sense.

First of all, in France, the rule used to be that spouses couldn't inherit from each other. This changed a few years back, but the surviving spouse's share of the estate is limited. In the case where the deceased has two children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse is limited to no more than 25% of the estate.

Now, this can be shifted a bit, depending on the marital regime the couple was married under or adopts after marriage. There is one regime where the survivor does indeed get everything - but in order to adopt this regime, the adult children of both partners must give their approval at the time the regime is adopted.

There are also some adjustments that can be made using "gifts between spouses" (donations entre epoux) but even under those, the 25% limit still holds.

If the house really is in her name, she has to have provided the funds to buy it from her own resources (i.e. not from common funds) and you should look into what regime they are under. You probably have cause to contest the settlement of the estate. These things can get very complicated where children from prior relationships are involved, but her range of action is generally pretty limited.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your input it is extremely helpful. His wife is British. Is there a way I can find out who owns the property?
 

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Thanks for your input it is extremely helpful. His wife is British. Is there a way I can find out who owns the property?
The information should be available from the local cadastre (property register) usually maintained at the mairie (town hall). You can engage an attorney in the area (or possibly a notaire) to check the cadastre and find the registered property owner.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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What nationality is the second wife? Because what she's telling you doesn't entirely make sense.

First of all, in France, the rule used to be that spouses couldn't inherit from each other. This changed a few years back, but the surviving spouse's share of the estate is limited. In the case where the deceased has two children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse is limited to no more than 25% of the estate.

Now, this can be shifted a bit, depending on the marital regime the couple was married under or adopts after marriage. There is one regime where the survivor does indeed get everything - but in order to adopt this regime, the adult children of both partners must give their approval at the time the regime is adopted.

There are also some adjustments that can be made using "gifts between spouses" (donations entre epoux) but even under those, the 25% limit still holds.

If the house really is in her name, she has to have provided the funds to buy it from her own resources (i.e. not from common funds) and you should look into what regime they are under. You probably have cause to contest the settlement of the estate. These things can get very complicated where children from prior relationships are involved, but her range of action is generally pretty limited.
Cheers,
Bev

Hi,
If the house was bought in the second wife's sole name , then getting their share would involve complex and costly legal proceedings, to prove that the father had contributed and to what extent. It might not be worth the costs. If the house was bought jointly , then the deceased's natural children cannot be denied their rightful share . They should consult an avocat .
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I will probably have to seek advice. Your advice is good but not what I wanted to hear!!
So thanks.

The house was bought from the proceeds of their first house which was definitely in joint names and they have lived off his pension and not hers. So if they have put the house in her name it will be from the proceeds of joint names
I imagine I have a good case.

Do lawyers work on a percentage or no win no fee in France?
 

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I'm not sure, but I believe attorneys in France are not allowed to work on a contingency basis - they charge fees based, I suppose, on their time spent on the case.

Was their first house (the one purchased in joint names) in France? If it was, then putting the house exclusively in the wife's name may be seen as a pre-mature distribution of his part of the estate. (French inheritance law is kind of strange in this regard.)

You may want to try and find a French qualified attorney in the UK to start out with. I notice that the British Consulate doesn't have a list of dual qualified attorneys in France. Another possibility is to use the American consulate's list of "English Speaking Attorneys" - which includes some dual-qualified lawyers (French and US). http://photos.state.gov/libraries/france/5/acs/paris-attorneys.pdf

Certainly worth at least an initial consultation to see if you have a case.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, I feel I don't want the wicked step mother to win this - good must shine out overall in the end. Especially as she said it to me while my dying father was laying in his bed in the other room!
 

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Thanks, I feel I don't want the wicked step mother to win this - good must shine out overall in the end. Especially as she said it to me while my dying father was laying in his bed in the other room!
Full disclosure: I AM a wicked stepmother... which is how come I know any of this inheritance related stuff. :eek:

Actually, though, I'm not looking to cut DH's kids out of what is rightfully theirs. Just trying to protect my own interests, given a somewhat difficult family situation and inheritance laws that are very foreign to the anglo-saxon traditions.

There may not be much you can do until after your father's passing. The key factors at that point will be what "regime" they are under (this is based on where and when they got married - or if they changed their regime while living in France) and any "donations entre epoux" or similar documents they may have executed since coming to France.

There is also the possibility that the notaire will handle everything just fine and surprise the heck out of your evil stepmother, meaning that you need not pay lots of attorney fees. But I'd at least go for a consultation with a French qualified attorney to find out exactly where you stand in all this.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
When did the law change with spouses not being able to leave everything to ur spouse? Was is 2007? Beacause they bought their 2nd home before this and may be hopefully unaware of new rules.

On thing her some said to me on the plane as we travelled back was "Its all a terrible mess". Again I said nothing because I didn't want to engage with him. However, he is a nice and reasonable person.

I will pursue/challenge her regardless as this is so unfair especially the way she gloated as she told me.

You did make me smile when u said "I am a wicked step mother"!
 

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In France, the old rule was that spouses could NOT inherit from each other. Period. The notaires used to have posters up in their waiting rooms trumpeting that fact. The "traditional" thing has always been that the children (of the deceased) inherited everything, including an obligation to provide for their surviving parent.

I think it was about 2004 that the rules changed - allowing a spouse to inherit everything in usufruit if they had children in common. But if there were children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse can only inherit a maximum of 25% of the deceased's estate in "plein droit" - i.e. with full rights to the property.

There have been various moves within the EU to allow people to divide up their estate under the rules of their home countries - but so far very little progress in making this happen.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hi,
It is possible that the existing house was bought in the wife's sole name with joint funds. This can be done under the UK marriage regime which is equivalent to french "separation des biens".
HOWEVER- no such arrangement can stand if the disinherited children can bring a succesful "Action en Reduction", in this they have to prove that their parent made a significant contribution to the purchase , which seems to be the case here. The only limiting factor would be the cost of action / possible inheritance ratio. They need to talk to a notaire about the strength of their case , their possible gains ,and the likely costs.
The action cannot be brought before the decease of the testator and should be initiated by contacting the notaire dealing with the will. There is a 5 year time limit for claims.
 

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In France, the old rule was that spouses could NOT inherit from each other. Period. The notaires used to have posters up in their waiting rooms trumpeting that fact. The "traditional" thing has always been that the children (of the deceased) inherited everything, including an obligation to provide for their surviving parent.

I think it was about 2004 that the rules changed - allowing a spouse to inherit everything in usufruit if they had children in common. But if there were children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse can only inherit a maximum of 25% of the deceased's estate in "plein droit" - i.e. with full rights to the property.

There have been various moves within the EU to allow people to divide up their estate under the rules of their home countries - but so far very little progress in making this happen.
Cheers,
Bev
Hi,
You are describing the situation as it was for people who make no wills or other arrangements- in which case there was no automatic right for the surviving spouse . The reason that the notaires "trumpeted" the fact was that they were urging people to pay them to draw up wills or in many cases "donations entre époux" to ensure that their spouses inherited the maximum possible .Because there have always been arrangements that gave the surviving spouse a share
I arrived in 1993 and immediately made a will checked by the notaire, ensuring that my (2nd) wife would inherit the life interest of all my estate in addition to her part of our joint estate. My 4 children would, indeed, get all my estate, but only following the second death.
 

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Hi,
You are describing the situation as it was for people who make no wills or other arrangements- in which case there was no automatic right for the surviving spouse . The reason that the notaires "trumpeted" the fact was that they were urging people to pay them to draw up wills or in many cases "donations entre époux" to ensure that their spouses inherited the maximum possible .Because there have always been arrangements that gave the surviving spouse a share
I arrived in 1993 and immediately made a will checked by the notaire, ensuring that my (2nd) wife would inherit the life interest of all my estate in addition to her part of our joint estate. My 4 children would, indeed, get all my estate, but only following the second death.
Prior to the last round of changes, I'd take issue with the notion that the surviving spouse "always" got a share. You needed to have a will or a donation to assure that - especially under the separation de biens regime.

I got married in 1995, electing the separation de biens regime - and we then did a donation entre époux which gives me the choice between taking the entire estate in usufruit or the 25% "unreserved" portion in plein droit.

The way the law changed a few years back, the surviving spouse now automatically gets the entire estate in usufruit IF all children of the deceased are children of the surviving spouse. In our cases (where the deceased has children from another relationship), the surviving spouse now automatically gets the 25% "unreserved" portion of the estate - unless there is a will or donation that provides for other terms.

What gets really "interesting" however, is if you find there is one of these "premature distributions" of estate assets - as it sounds there may have been in the OP's case. But like you say, there is nothing to be done until the succession has been opened.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
In France, the old rule was that spouses could NOT inherit from each other. Period. The notaires used to have posters up in their waiting rooms trumpeting that fact. The "traditional" thing has always been that the children (of the deceased) inherited everything, including an obligation to provide for their surviving parent.

I think it was about 2004 that the rules changed - allowing a spouse to inherit everything in usufruit if they had children in common. But if there were children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse can only inherit a maximum of 25% of the deceased's estate in "plein droit" - i.e. with full rights to the property.

There have been various moves within the EU to allow people to divide up their estate under the rules of their home countries - but so far very little progress in making this happen.
Cheers,
Bev
Hi Bev, Are you still out there? Sadly my father has now passed. I have some more questions if you are able to respond I would really appreciate your imput.
Regards
Leolioness
 

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Hi Bev, Are you still out there? Sadly my father has now passed. I have some more questions if you are able to respond I would really appreciate your imput.
Regards
Leolioness
Sorry to hear about your father's passing.

Ask away. But you probably need to get in touch with the notaire that is handling your father's succession , if only to stake your claim. There are cases I've heard of where the surviving spouse "neglects" to inform the notaire of the existence of children of the deceased from a prior marriage.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yes, you are totally ahead of me. She phoned me and told me that my father had died. To cut a very long story she did not want to attend any part of the funeral and said there would not be a funeral. I managed to get the details of the Funeral Home and speak to them. I managed to see my father for the last time and follow the car to the cremetatorium. We were the only four people at the funeral.
She wants to pretend that we (my brother and I) dont exist and not let anyone meet us.

However, the funeral director must have dedected something strange as he gave me the Death Certificate and smirked. He even offered me the ashes which she had instructed to be delivered to her home. I suppose I should have handed back the certificate and let him deliver it to her - But I didn't.

So can I use this to ensure I will be at the reading?
Do you know the name of a good notaire specialising in this type of situation?
How will I know where or when it will be read.

Many thanks and I really appreciate your imput.
 

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Technically speaking, it's the heirs who are responsible for the funeral and for the succession. Since you now have the death certificates, you should go to a notaire (of your choosing) and open the estate proceedings yourself. (I don't know how they control for two family members each trying to open the estate at about the same time, but it might be interesting to find out!)

I don't know of any notaires other than the two I have had occasion to deal with - one here in the Paris area and the other up in Lille where my husband's family is from. You may simply want to find out who your step mother has used (probably someone in the town where they are living - at least that's the norm) and just make an appointment to see them, certificates in hand, to make your existence known. The law is pretty strict on these matters.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hi,

It may be worth pointing out to your stepmother that attempting to conceal the existence of reserved heirs from a notaire is a serious criminal offence in France.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you. I really need a Notaire now. I have identified their property on the Cadstre french land registry but can't find where it lists ownership of the property. Can I access that online do you know?

Thanks again
 
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