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You believe you should benefit from someone's will, but inheritors contest your rights

Home > Inheritance and succession | Published 2015-11-20

You have taken care of a person in the last moments of their life, and have created a strong relationship with them. Hoping you will be repaid for this generosity, they mentioned you in their final testament to receive some or all of their inheritance. At their death, the inheritors contest you based on their relationship to the deceased and their place in the will. What can you do to defend your rights?

You have taken the time to occupy yourself with someone who has thus named you legatee in order to rethink you

More and more frequently elderly people find themselves isolated because they have had the misfortune of losing close family members, while others live far away due to their own circumstances.

In lieu of this, you have had the opportunity to care for an elderly and isolated person.

Whether a friend, neighbor, assisted living employee, etc., you have helped everyday with shopping, administrative and patrimonial tasks, and cared for them, potentially forming a close bond.

Their distant family knows nothing of the situation, or simply has not paid attention.

To rethink you for all of the help and demonstrating your affection, the elderly established a will in your favor, which benefits you by giving you part or all of their inheritance.

The deceased may also help you by offering a life insurance contract.

What solutions are available when facing the inheritors?

Upon death, if there are existing heirs, they may attempt to contest this will in order to take away some of their inheritance.

The inheritors may seek you out in private.

Then they will use all sorts of arguments; infringement upon reserved inheritance, diversion or misappropriation of inheritance, inveiglement of inheritance, state of insanity of the testator, or perhaps even as far as the abuse of the weak and abuse of confidence in the deceased.

The legislator has, many times and via different reforms, wanted to privilege the place of legatee and the will of the testator, notably in 2006, and has also wanted to reinforce the priority of all wills expressed by the testator, granting notably people under legal guardianship or tutelage the possibility to write a will conforming to article 470 and following Civil Code.

Thus, it is those that try to prove that at the moment of signing the will the signer was not completely mentally stable that should take care.

The Court of Cassation reminds that, "the burden of the testator's insanity, falls on the one claiming insanity."

For example, in one case, the daughter of the deceased, believing herself prejudiced against, demanded the cancellation of a will created by her father benefiting a third party. She claimed her father's insanity at the moment of signing of the will. A decision made by the Court of Cassation in 2010 claimed that, "having noted, first, that the mentions of the will, written by the hand of the notary, in the presence of two witnesses, under the dictation of the testator to which it had been read and who having expressed understanding in explaining his will, revealed the coherence of the thoughts of the testator, and secondly, that the findings of the notary and the witnesses, were not countered by produced medical certificates, the Court of Appeals [...] with sovereign rights estimated that the insanity of Armand X... was not confirmed, on the date of the testament; the average cannot be accepted," (1st Civ. January 6, 2010, appeal No. 08-20646).

So to protect yourself against demands or unfounded accusations and to respect and value your rights, you should take a certain number of precautions starting from when you begin taking care of an elderly person,  be they your family or not.

It is advised then that you consult, as early as possibly, a lawyer knowledge in patrimony and inheritance, so that they can inform you of the appropriate action to take to protect yourself, the traps to avoid, and the ways to defend yourself from unfounded demands.

Numerous solutions exist to repay you for the good work you have done. Thus by taking the appropriate legal steps, you can avoid this process turning into a legal nightmare.

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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