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In an unpleasant inheritance case should I get my own notaire or just deal directly with the one chosen by my brother?


Cyclohexane Chair
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We are all British in my family. My father died leaving an estate behind, including a house and some furniture. My brother, who lives in France, and speaks perfect French, and is quite good at getting his way, contacted a notaire. Since I don't trust my brother, I am worried that he chose a notaire that *he* could trust to be biased in his favour. I'm living far away in another country, and have not met the notaire.

I know that a notaire is *in theory* impartial, but how does it work in practice, and would it be in my interest to find my own notaire, so that my notaire would be loyal to me (or at least not to my brother)?

I know only what I've found out in a couple of hour of reading.

Thanks in advance for your help in this matter.

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Sad that you feel you can trust an unknown Notaire more than your brother.

I'm not sure that there can be two Notaires dealing with the same estate, but if so, they would simply share the fees, so neither would be likely to be very happy, or favour one inheritor over another. The fees would definitely be higher, due them having to correspond with each other, spending more chargeable time over every decision.

In any case, the Notaire only divides up the estate according to the the valuations of its components, which you can contest, and the law.

It also seems, as you're not there, that you don't have any control over who enters the property and could remove items not included in the Will, if there is one.

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One would need far more information to make any useful comment.

Where is the house: France or the UK?

Did your late father leave a will? Was this an English or French will?

Finally it would all depend upon the size of the gross estate.

In what is termed a Contentious Probate matter, lawyers' fees can be rather high.

Rather than a Notaire, in order to contest the estate, you would need to employ either a UK solicitor or a French Avocat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Notaire should be impartial. You would do well to try to establish a report with him/her as quickly as possible. If the Notaire is not fluent in English and you not in French then find a French speaker who can speak for you.

In my experience, talking in a friendly manner to officials - preferably in their own language - goes a long way.

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Thanks very much for all the replies. You've cheered me up quite a bit.

ssomon, you are correct, I don't have any control over who enters the property, and there is no will. Yes, it is a very sad situation. What I've told you is just the tip of the iceberg.

Harnser, thank you for the link, which is very interesting. Since there is no will in this case the change in the law will not affect my family.

Gluestick, the house is in France. There's no will. I don't know what the size of gross estate is. My brother's notaire said probably less than a quarter of a million Euros.

Alan Zoff, of course the notaire should be impartial, but will he be? I have been using Google Translate to send email in French, and to understand the French email I get. It works fairly well. It's quite fun and good for my French. I thought a notaire was a lawyer, not a judge. Is the line between judge and lawyer blurred more in France? Is a notaire somewhere on a spectrum between the two? I heard that under the code Napoleon or something the judge is also the investigator, like in Almodovar's High Heels (set in Spain).

Talking in a friendly manner is always a good idea, surely? The French appreciate it when you assume that the default language is French, too, I think.

 

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1 hour ago, Cyclohexane Chair said:

Gluestick, the house is in France. There's no will. I don't know what the size of gross estate is. My brother's notaire said probably less than a quarter of a million Euros.

A couple more questions...

1. Was your late father a French citizen?

2.

 

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14 hours ago, Cyclohexane Chair said:

  ................................ I thought a notaire was a lawyer, not a judge. Is the line between judge and lawyer blurred more in France? Is a notaire somewhere on a spectrum between the two? I heard that under the code Napoleon or something the judge is also the investigator, like in Almodovar's High Heels (set in Spain).

Talking in a friendly manner is always a good idea, surely? The French appreciate it when you assume that the default language is French, too, I think.

 

Notaires are qualified as lawyers but do not act as such. They are government officials who are mainly responsible for overseeing, facilitating, and recording financial transactions according to the law, for which they charge fees according to an official scale. They calculate and collect the taxes due on the transactions, and will also give general advice on legal matters connected with their function. They do not charge for advice, which may only be worth what is paid for it.

Edited by ssomon
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Cyclohexane, I think if there is no will, then the French rules are pretty cut and dried.

As this official website  https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F2529  says, the children of the deceased are the priority inheritors. So the notaire should divide up the estate (and its liabilities) equally between and your brother and any other siblings. If any siblings are deceased, their children would take their parent's share.

 

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6 hours ago, ssomon said:

Notaires are qualified as lawyers but do not act as such. They are government officials who are mainly responsible for overseeing, facilitating, and recording financial transactions according to the law, for which they charge fees according to an official scale. They calculate and collect the taxes due on the transactions, and will also give general advice on legal matters connected with their function. They do not charge for advice, which may only be worth what is paid for it.

A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, perhaps.

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On 08/12/2021 at 06:21, Alan Zoff said:

The Notaire should be impartial. You would do well to try to establish a report with him/her as quickly as possible. If the Notaire is not fluent in English and you not in French then find a French speaker who can speak for you.

In my experience, talking in a friendly manner to officials - preferably in their own language - goes a long way.

Yes, the notaire *should* be impartial. But what are the odds of that?

Talking in a friendly manner in perfect French is exactly what my brother is good at.

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32 minutes ago, Cyclohexane Chair said:

1. No

2.

A software glitch screwed up my post of yesterday evening! I will now -try! - to post this again...

OK, that's no 1 out of the way.

2. Did your father live in France full time?

3. Did he leave any UK assets, particularly property?

4. Did he pass away in France or the UK?

Edited by Gluestick
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7 minutes ago, Gluestick said:

A software glitch screwed up my post of yesterday evening! I will now -try! - to post this again...

OK, that's no 1 out of the way.

2. Did your father live in France full time?

3. Did he leave any UK assets, particularly property?

4. Did he pass away in France or the UK?

2. Yes.

3. No.

4. He passed away in France.

 

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OK and thank you.

It would seem pretty clear. As your father passed away intestate (i.e. leaving no will) and since he lived in France, then the estate will be subject to French inheritance law and charged to tax in France.

Your brother, no matter that there is obvious ill will between you, cannot take a greater share of the estate than that dictated by French law.

I would suggest if you are not assured, then you could query the values placed upon the house and contents and demand independent valuations.

The Notaire's principle role is to ensure the French state is paid all taxes due, before the distribution is made.

 

 

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I don't think involving another Notaire will offer much benefit. Neither will get their hands dirty with day-to-day stuff in the property. You have equal rights with your brother in terms of the legal aspects which the Notaire will handle and account for. The problem as ever is possession - you need to be on the spot if you want to avoid brother taking advantage and it might already be too late for that in respect of moveable items in the house, especially if you do not have full details of what was there. Was an inventory made? (Apologies if that has already been covered.)

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I cannot see, Alan, how a second Notaire could add any benefit?

The Notaire's function in the matter of probate is firstly to register the change of title (and notify The Impôt in order they know who to send tax demands to!) and to collect any inheritance taxes due.

Since there is no will, it is actually a very straightforward matter insofar as the Notaire is concerned, as it is dictated by French inheritance law.

Whilst clearly not so, for the two siblings!

I have considerable professional experience of Contentious Probate under UK law: which is an utter - and potentially expensive - nightmare.

Mainly since UK probate law dates back to circa 1890 😲 and relies completely on precedent: with the singular exception of the Children and Families Act, 2014, which makes allowance for children who need some financial provision (e.g. physically or mentally impaired and unable to support themselves), even though not mentioned in a will.

Human beings at their worst, when greed overcomes moral compass...

 

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On 09/12/2021 at 10:58, ssomon said:

Notaires are qualified as lawyers but do not act as such. They are government officials who are mainly responsible for overseeing, facilitating, and recording financial transactions according to the law, for which they charge fees according to an official scale. They calculate and collect the taxes due on the transactions, and will also give general advice on legal matters connected with their function. They do not charge for advice, which may only be worth what is paid for it.

 

On 09/12/2021 at 17:47, Cyclohexane Chair said:

A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, perhaps.

 

On 09/12/2021 at 17:52, Cyclohexane Chair said:

Thanks so much everyone for your kind replies. You've cheered me up no end. But I still can't decide whether to look for my own notaire on the internet, or hope that the one my brother chose will be honest with me.

 

 

You still seem to think that a Notaire is a lawyer. Many Notaires were lawyers, but they are no longer practicing as such. They are tax collectors for the government and not really concerned with your and your brother's personal arguments.

If you have a dispute with your brother over the estate you either settle it between yourselves or get a French lawyer, avocat, to start a legal process to sort it out.

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