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Blocked Probate, what are the solutions?

Home > International Estate | Published 2010-12-30

What is the deadline to accept or waive the acceptance of an estate?

French Civil Code allocates a period of four months for an heir to consider his choice of accepting an inheritance, unless the period is alternately decided from the genesis of inheritance planning (Art 771 Civil Code). During this period, the heir has the authority to delay action and dismiss the claims of creditors regarding payments that might in any way hurt or hinder their decision.

A number of complications may emerge from an individual’s choice to accept an inheritance, be it a simple or conditional acceptance to the extent that the net assets are waived. What are the options for an heir who is shortchanged as a result of the choices he or she made?

The decision of the heir may be subject to deficiencies of consent arising from falsehoods associated with fraud (they were a victim of a lie), violence, or error (section 777 Civil Code). In essence, this means that the heir who was misled about the extent of the estate and its contents and renounces or otherwise accepts the offer, may demand nullity of his election should this prove contrary to his interests.

Thus, according to Article 786 paragraph 2 of the Civil Code, an heir who accepts an estate may be relieved of the previously accrued debt of the decedent should they furnish a cogent and sensible reason.

If, after the allotted four months, provided by Article 771 of the Civil Code, one of the heirs has not made his or her choice, the issue will be put on hold. The partition of an estate is governed by the ordinary rules of indivisibility: to share the same estate or dispose of the component elements, unanimity is required. This rule poses many problems during a period of time where familial tensions are drastically heightened. The division of an estate can take nearly a decade and cause great distress for the families involved. For these reasons, the intervention of an individual experienced in the field of estate planning and administration can quickly and peacefully resolve any disagreements. Your lawyer can intervene to find the best solution to the settlement of an estate; often by implementing a few simple processes and principles.

Thus, Article 815-3 of the Civil Code allows the substitution, for a number of acts, of the rule of 2/3 majority in place of the rule of unanimity. It is possible, since the formalization of the act of 2006, to sell some furniture and physical assets with the approval of 2/3 majority of the parties involved when it is needed to pay off debts and ownership expenses. The assistance of a lawyer can demonstrate the best way to proceed and accompany you during the different steps you take.

One innovation of the 2006 act is the double penalty that may be imposed on an heir who has knowingly concealed the existence of a joint heir. The heir guilty of concealment who considers themselves the sole  recipient incurs a penalty demanding the removal of any and all outright inheritance they may have received. Their claims are nullified along with any products and income relating to the unit that they may have collected. All shares will go to the “hidden heir.”

The omission of an heir is discussed in Article 887-1 of the Civil Code which provides that the respective shares of any recipient may be retracted for failing to acknowledge another heir. That said, the cancellation of a shared trust is complex. If the other party is uninterested in receiving his or her share, either in content or value, estate law may not mandate the outright cancellation of the distribution of an estate. Your lawyer can help you understand and assert your rights. Please contact him or her if you reach an impasse.

If a successor has not contacted an attorney and the estate has been divided, how can one resolve issues arising from “forgotten” heirs or a refusal to accept an inheritance while maintaining and asserting the appropriated rights of the individual?

Many solutions exist

For example, a questioning action can summon the heir to take sides. At the expiration of the allotted decision period of four months, a summons from the other heirs may be put forth or a creditor of the estate or the State may require the recipient to take silent advantage. If no reply is submitted within two months following the summons, the heir will be assumed to be in silent acceptance.

The requirement of consent can also be invoked against a share that can be canceled, under section 887 of the Civil Code, for fraud, abuse or error regarding the existence or amount of shared duties or on the ownership of a property included in the corpus for partition.

A lawyer can help you determine whether you fall into one of these categories that meet strict conditions specified by the courts. When faced with these difficult decisions, your attorney can help diagnose any mistakes that may have occurred against your favor during a matter of inheritance.

He will challenge these issues with ardor and vehemence...

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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