French law

I am the only son of my unmarried father. Father lived in France with his girlfriend of two years. She has a daughter of her own. My father passed away through ongoing problems he had from cancer. His girlfriend saw fit to have my father cremated and had the funeral without informing any family here in the UK. It was months after when she decided to contact me and in turn I informed the family including dads elderly mother.

They have a property and gite business in France. I am unsure if this was in dads name; but I am positive it won't be now. She is now seeking to claim fathers money from the UK as well under rule 75; although I have paperwork stating dad did not wish to return to the UK; therefore his chosen domicile was France. This reads a sorry tale as I read this back.

My question is; did she break French law by not informing me of the cremation and funeral?

David. Without going into the moral rights and wrongs of the situation regarding the funeral and cremation, you need to contact a notaire to sort out the question of property ownership. With details of the address of the property any notaire can consult the land registry and find out who the owner is. If it was in your father's sole name, (or even in joint names, provided there was no "Tontine" clause) his share could not have been legally transferred without your signature on deeds. So you would have a legal challenge.

You don't say when your father died, but it usually takes several weeks for a succession to be dealt with by a notaire, so if it was very recent, chances are nothing has as yet been done.

PM me if you need details of an English speaking notaire

I must firstly thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post.

I am puzzled as to why dad purchased the property in this way but. He did so I guess I must deal with the thought I reminded him too much of mum and he could not deal with it
father used the following method. However I must point out he was dying with cancer at three points in his body at the time.

It is possible under French law to split the ownership of property into the usufruit, broadly equivalent to the concept of the life tenancy, and the nue-propriété, or bare ownership. The former is the right to use and bear the fruits of the property, such as the right to live in the property and to receive income, interest and rents. The latter is the right to dispose of the property. The usufruit ends when the usufruitier dies and the full ownership of the property rests with the nu-propriétaire.
Im not sure if this method is sewn up completely. I guess it was dads choice of direction at the time. Perhaps I have read this wrong?
i must thank you for taking the time to comment.
Many thanks

Your understanding of the situation seems correct. People do as your father did in order to protect the surviving partner. From what you say, his partner has the usufruct, whilst you are the nu-propriétaire. You should still sign a notarial deed to this effect. In the event that you and the usufructary decide to sell the property (one cannot do so without the agreement of the other), the notaire wil calculate the value of the usufruct as a percentage of the sale price, based on her age and an official life-expectancy scale. The sale price will then be paid to each of you in the respective proportions and that will be the end of her rights.

As for the UK assets, as far as I am aware, they will be dealt with under UK law (probate). But my knowledge is based on my experience translating for notaires and you really should consult a notaire.

Kind regards

I hope this isn't taken amiss, but if your father was unmarried, did he acknowledge you? Because if not, according to the code civil, neither you nor the girl friend are seen as family and next of kin are deemed to be the parents or siblings of the deceased person, which complicates things rather as you have to go though proving the relationship etc

If I've got the wrong end of the stick and he was married' when he had you or filiation is proved then it is different. In any case, go and see à notaire with as much information as possible.

Dear Veronique

i was born during wedlock; however they did divorce some years afterwards. We had a distant relationship as adults. He bought the house in France with a lady younger than I who has never met any of dads friends or family. Most odd. The first I knew of her was when father had died.

Many thanks


So much easier for you. If he was pacséd with the girl friend she has the right to stay in the house for a year before having to move or sell up or buy you out or whatever, if they bought the house together there should be information to that effect on the acte and she will get out what she put in, if your father didn't make à will then the code civil dispositions will kick in - if they are neither pacsed nor married then unluckily for her she's just à business partner and will get as I said before what she put in. You are the heir so your rights are fairly well protected under French law but go and see à notaire!! I really can ' t stress this enough. Blood is thicker than anything else in France law.

ie the relationship you have with your parent is irrelevant they cannot légally leave you less than half or 3/4 of the estate. It's not like GB where they have no family féeling and you can leave your millions to the Battersea dogs' home instead of your children.

The property was bought as father being usufruit and his partner the nue-propriété. So I'm sure this will make a difference. As soon as I am in command of all the facts I will contact a Notaire. I know father could not use tontine to purchase the property as they had a huge age difference. It seems tontine can only be used when they have a similar life expectancy. Do you know if I have a case as father was usufruit?


and again thank you very much


No idea where you got the notion that à tontine clause isn't applicable for huge âge gaps, that's PRÉCISÉLY what it is for. The aim is to protect the home of the surviving partner by taking it out of the succession altogether. If your father was just the usufruitier then it may be that the house actually belongs entirely to the girlfriend. SEE À NOTAIRE. DO IT NOW.

If it was bought as: usufruit for your father, nu-propriété for the girl friend that means she owns it and he gets to use it and bénéfit from it and neither can sell without the other's àgréement. On the death of the usufruitier the property reverts complètely to the nu-propriétaire. That's how it would normally work. Any sensible person buying with à much younger partner would do it that way to avoid hoo-ha later on. Oh to get back to your original question, it is absolutely not the girlfriend's legal responsabilité to tell you any thing. Moral perhaps but certainly not légal. Go and see à notaire.

Then I cannot see any benefit from seeing a Notaire if in effect my father has avoided succession law. I wonder what was going through his mind... Perhaps he just wanted to get there and settle and would do anything to have a year or two of relaxing life with the knowledge he was dying. I can accept that.

The bénéfits of seeing à notaire would be getting facts based on solid information rather than advice, however well-meant, from random non-notaires on an internet forum.

We inserted a tontine clause into our house purchase and were told by the notaire that it wouldn't have been allowed had our age difference been too great, so David is correct on this.

I think it might help if you try to look at it from your father's partner's point of view to see it in context. I guess she thought that if you didn't care for him enough to keep in touch and be part of his (and her) 'support network' while he was alive, why would you bother to travel to a funeral? and indeed, why would she invite you? Grief and relationships are sensitive subjects. We all tend to feel hostility towards people who cause or have caused sadness to the people we love, so if you didn't show much concern for your dad and if this made him sad (because fathers usually do feel sad, deep down, if their sons won't have anything to do with them), it's possible his partner may have resented you for it. But assuming there is no hostility I don't see anything particularly odd in the delay in informing you. It sounds as if your father had built a new life for himself and for whatever reason you weren't part of it. There's a lot to do and cope with when a partner dies, starting with getting in touch with all the people who were part of his life, especially if you were running a business together. Digging out addresses of people who used to know the deceased and need to be informed even though they were no longer in contact, comes later.

So I don't think you should hold a private grudge, and to reply to your question - there is no law that says who must be invited to a cremation, that is a purely private matter and has nothing to do with the legal side of things. The law regarding inheritance is very strict and is not left in the hands of private individuals. There is no reading of the will after the funeral, if that's what you're worried about; the funeral is a private occasion. On the legal level, if you do stand to inherit then the notaire who's dealing with the estate will contact you in due course. Your father's partner has absolutely nothing to do with handling the succession, family members don't take on the role of exector as they do in the UK, they are not involved in it and she has no say over who gets what. It does look very much as if your father arranged things as he did, specifically to ensure that his partner ended up with the house. Legally it is not part of his estate, it belonged to his partner and still does (do you know for a fact that it was even bought with your father's money?). Since you're not related to his partner, you will have no claim on it when she dies, it'll go to her daughter. However, as your father's son you are his protected heir come what may, so I guess you will inherit a share of his non-fixed assets - money in a bank account or savings in his name, his car if it's in his name, etc. Any notaire will tell you the law, but if you wait, the notaire who's dealing with the succession will in due course get round to informing you how the law applies in these particular circumstances. The law is black and white and it will take its course regardless of what you, you father's partner, or anybody else does or doesn't do.

Excellent post, Anna ☺

Thank you all for your input. Father and I never had a crossed word. His elderly mother my grandmother was also left in the dark. I had to plead for my fathers remains so at least my grandmother; sister, nieces etc could have a proper burial albeit a year after the event. My father lived with my grandmother for ten months before purchasing the property in France.

The post has taken a rather different tone. But I again thank you for some useful comments.

Why don't you have à lovely mémorial service for him, where you or his mother live, that all your family can come to? Much nicer for every one and you will get some clôsure. Up to you whether you invite the girlfriend, just organisé something nice as a way of acknowledging familial loss and saying goodbye. ..

Just so you understand where I'm coming from: my own father (or rather his ashes) is still in a box on top of à dresser in my kitchen, I'm still thinking about where to put him for good as it's complicatéd - but he had à fantastic mémorial service back in 2000 à couple of months after he died. Thèse rituals are important for the living, the dead don't care (I'm quoting my grandfather the vicar here).