French mother living in Brittany -English children living in UK

Hi, my widowed french mother went back to France many years ago having married, had 3 children in UK. Mum lives in a 1 bedroom apartment and is 95, does not have any savings at all and wants to go into a home, however is €500 pcm short for this home. She is insistent that because myself & brother are medically retired and our younger sister only works 12 hours per week, that we will not incur her debt. Of course we want her remaining years to be comfortable but are extremely worried that we will be perused for any debt. Advice please.

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If your mother is French she will know that in France children have to take responsibility for their parents. I think you somehow have to persuade her that you would far prefer to pay voluntarily than be pursued for debts.

And post Brexit passports are scanned so you certainly don’t want to be detained at passport control!

Surely between 3 children you can come to some arrangement with the care home?

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Didn’t she bring you up? It is payback time :relaxed:

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Oh dear, this must be so worrying for your Mother and for you children.

Does she own her apartment, or does she rent it?

Have you been contacted by anyone “official” re the Home ??

Does she need to go into the Home for medical reasons…??

Thank you for the replies, quite understand French law but her children are not French and have never lived in France, she is adamant we will not be responsible for her debts and certainly none of us are in a position to fund the shortfall. I am medically retired, my brother is registered blind and disabled and my sister works part time. We begged her to return to the UK where she could live with us but she wouldn’t have any of it. She is now 95 years older, rents her apartment, qualifies for home help care and a nurse comes in twice a day to help with her medical needs. She has no savings whatsoever only her Uk pension and her British GPO pension. She lives an independent life but unfortunately feels she can’t live on her own anymore. We are at out wits end at the moment and want to know if we will be liable for the shortfall in the costs for the home she has put her name down for. Any advice please

Yes you will be liable under French law., and also your children. But the French do not expect you to beggar yourself so would take your personal circumstances into consideration.

Whether they can or would pursue you if you never set foot in France is another matter. And probably one you need to take legal advice on.

It sounds as if you do have a relationship with your mother, so what would be so much better in the long run would be to work out a compromise with your mother and the local authorities and health service. There is financial aide available for paying for a maison de retraite for people with small incomes and few or no resources. This is
“l’aide sociale à l’hébergement en maison de retraite (ASH)”.

This is a process that will include assessment of your resources. But it will then be done and you and your children will not have the worry of a knock on the door by a debt collector, or feel bad that your mother is forced to go to the cheapest possible maison de retraite.

Do try to talk her round. If you go through this process and you yourselves have little money you may find you are not asked for much.


If your mother or father is French, you are French.

I think you are probably better off being old in France than the UK, one way and another - and changing countries in your 90s wouldn’t be easy.

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Sadly not always!

They have to do a minimum of admin when you are still under 18…

Wow, a lot to go through! Not sure about the post - if your mother is French so are we - we were born in the Uk , never have had dual nationality therefore assume we are British. Thank you all for your comments, do you recommend anyone we can approach to get definitive legal advice?. My husband is due to have major heart surgery in the next month and would like to get this resolved as we all are really stressed about this .

I think the point is that from a French perspective this woman has children, whether or not you have exercised your right to a french identity card is possibly irrelevant as far as french authorities are concerned. Although might be worth asking if she did register your births at the time with the embassy or Nantes.

It just seems to me that you mother is being unfair to you by insisting you are not liable. She must know that in French law this is not possible so is putting you in between a rock and a hard place. All very well for her to say this, but that will have no effect with the authorities.

If you have few resources perhaps you need to start with Citizen’s Advice in the UK ( or CITES I think they are now).

The other option of course would be for your mother to find a maison de retraite that is within her means. If she has 2 pensions then presumably she has some money.

If I recall correctly… any Home will want to be sure (reasonably sure) that costs will be met… so I would expect contact to be made with the family, for any shortfall to be discussed/investigated.

Thus, I don’t think you will find yourselves suddenly presented with a “fait accompli” .

Thank you so much for the last 2 posts , no our births were never registered in France, but at least if the home does her finances then we will have a clearer picture of how to move forward.

You are her children though, and may still be on the radar - I know various people, fellow undergraduates, who are half and half like me but only British, ie unregistered, and who went to see eg Mamie in Lille and were met off the train by gendarmes because of not having done military service (which was still compulsory and a proper thing in the 80s).

I had a quick dig about cross-border liabilities (it’s raining hard so can’t face taking dog out just yet!). At the moment because of brexit the regulations allowing for French debts to be recovered in the UK are not in force. However the expectation is that an agreement will be negotiated shortly, as both countries want to be able to pursue debts.

Care homes will know how to get a court order for a debt and how to pursue it so are more likely to do so than say a debt for an unpaid garage bill. So from what I’ve read don’t believe people who say these debts are not enforceable. If they want to, they can.

Please try to persuade your mother to go down the normal route. You won’t be left penniless, and you won’t have to live with feeling that your mother could be moved out of her care home for unpaid bills.

I had a hugely stubborn mother who refused to move into a care home, refused to move closer to any one of us, accept carers, or accept that she was no longer capable. So I do understand dealing with elderly independent mothers is not easy. But looking after her during the last few years completely exhausted us (and I am one of 3!) so do please get this sorted. Having your mother looked after properly will no doubt be a huge relief.


Thank you SO much Jane for your advice. Apparently she has already registered herself with a home, she will be €500 short pcm so no doubt will be hearing shortly as regard to funding etc. Never did we dream that when she went back to France to live 45 years ago that we would be in this situation. I appreciate all the comments but a lot of people will not know us and our family circumstances, however I have appreciated this site no end.



Hi Michele… just discussed a hypothetical question with a neighbour who has had similar experience… and the outcome was that, yes, children can be called to account… (but not made destitute. )

The advice was for the family to check if there is a cheaper Home in the area where the Mother now lives … or near the expensive Home…
also advised to make contact with the Home where Mother is registered… and explain the situation… and discuss…
“always discuss” kept being repeated…

keep smiling…

Thank you Stella, mum now appears to be listening to reason, we have organised meals on wheels for the short term as the main reason she wants to go is that she is finding cooking too hard. So until the virus has calmed down it buys us some more time to research other suitable homes . Regards Michele


Well done for finding Meals on wheels as an interim measure. Which still gives your mum autonomie and independance.
I wonder if you have considered “Aide à domicile” where someone can help do the shopping, prepare meals do some housework as well as provide a bit of company for her.
The link below explains all the financial help and services that are available.

best wishes


Good plan. If she is generally OK at home other than managing then as Tracey said the ‘aide a domicile’ is excellent here, it is seen as better to keep people home as long as possible so it works really well. My 94 year old neighbour has the girls in 4 times a day, to get her up and give breakfast, lunch time, dinner time, and come back to help her to bed. And we are in a small village!