Legal advice from a US lawyer?


I need some advice from a US lawyer or someone who knows a lot about the US legal system. My Aunt died here in France a few months ago, and left everything she had (not a lot) to my dad, who lives in the UK and is 87. I have been managing all the bureaucracy and crap here, as the only surviving relative resident in France (My sisters and cousins have got away with a lot!!). Anyway, in addition to what she had in France, she held a share account in the USA. All that’s left in it is less than 3,000$. However, the company in the US are being painfully stupid and bureaucratic about doing things about it. After lots of messing around they finally agreed to accept my aunt had died (fancy the french being so inconvenient as supplying a death certificate… in French!!). However, they now want me to sign various legal documents and get court orders that don’t exist in France in order to get things sorted. I have pointed out that a French lawyer won’t sign documents that have no legal status, that French courts won’t make orders under US law… and have pointed out that for me to appoint a US lawyer etc will probably cost more than was left in her account!


still - better than a slap in the face with a wet fish!

After I wrote that I learned how to block receiving notifications of other people’s blogs, so i didn’t have to.Now i just have to block all the replies to the thing I wrote!

Anyway thanks - I have lumped it back to them and told them to contact the notaire here. She speaks virtually no English, they speak no French. It will be interesting to see how they resolve it. If he’s lucky my dad may end up with 50 bucks.

anything u need translated from french to english even if legal i think i may be able to help. no fee. poss gd idea 2 get an excutor appointed for the Amrican market? Ask your cousin as that will make things simpler. Oh David - aren’t u glad u didn’t leave?!! :slight_smile:

Brilliant, thank you. Will dump everything on the Notaire asap.


This is typical that a notaire would not try to deal with a foreign third party when he is supposed to do so. French law is clear on that point and if the deceased person is domiciled in France, French law should apply to assets held abroad except (most of the time) property.

You are absolutely right not to act as executor if you have not been appointed as such as otherwise you could be liable should anything be challenged. For the same question of liability, I guess, the notaire is reluctant to deal with this. Your father (as beneficiary) should write a letter to the notaire and send it by registered post (LRAR) to instruct him officially and request that he complies with his duties. If instructed a notaire must, by law, comply with the instruction (unless the instruction is deemed unlawful).
If your father is the sole beneficiary of the estate, a third party such as your cousin can only act on his behalf if a Power of Attorney is given allowing him to do so.

If the notaire complies with his code of conduct, it should not add much to the fees paid to proceed to the succession procedure. Nothing ties you to one notaire in particular and you may wish to find another one if you are at a standstill.

It would be a shame to have to split the succession procedure in two and contact a US attorney but if necessary your father could request a few quotes.

I hope this helps.

Hi, @ Alison and Guillome: she was domiciled in France, and everything French is being dealt with by competent French lawyers. She left a will leaving everything to my father, but named no executor. The French lawyer, however, is quite clear that they are not going to deal with anything outside of France, and that French law does not apply to any assets held abroad. They won’t deal with the US firm of dealers (not a bank). I have all the paperwork, will, death certificates etc, and the US firm have accepted this - what they are asking me to do is firstly sign a declaration (an “Affadavit of Domicile”) which I would have to get translated, and as far as I can see am not in any legal position to sign anyway, and secondly they want me to go to court to get a “Letter of Testimony” appointing me as Executor. I am not her executor and have no wish to be her executor!! Furthermore, the legal cost of all this, getting papers translated etc, doesn’t seem worthwhile.

So to sum up, there is no executor (you don’t need one in france as i understand it) nor anyone who can act as her executor, as far as I can see. I do have a cousin in the US, but again I am not sure if 1) that he will do it, 2) whether he COULD legally do it, or 3) whether it would be worth doing…

Any further advice?

Dear David,

There are different things to consider in order to follow the right procedure:

  1. Where was your Aunt deemed domiciled?
    This will ascertain the law under which the succession procedure (probate) should be subject to. If both France and the USA have a claim that your Aunt was deemed domiciled in the country, a bilateral treaty between the two countries will help determine where the domicile should be.

  2. Application of the correct procedure
    Once you know which law should apply (I am guessing here it is French law), either the provision of a will and/or French procedure should be complied with. In particular, if an executor has been named, this is the first thing that should be communicated to the US bank to show that this person has power to act on behalf of all the beneficiaries. If no executor has been named in a will, the French notaire should be the person acting as such and therefore deal with the US bank.

A will should not be disclosed to anybody else but the beneficiaries named, their representatives and the person in charge of the succession procedure.

The US bank should be explained the procedure by the executor or the notaire and receive the relevant deeds registered by the notaire to authorise the transfer of funds or access to beneficiaries.

I hope this helps,

Do not hesitate to contact me if you need further assistance.

Good luck!

@Steve C - pls do u have any spare money?! :slight_smile: @David - do you have any of the original paperwork to do with the share a/c? What do they want you to sign? Have they been sent a copy of her will? If your sis is in the UK praps she could deal with it from here onwards?!

wow… incredible if its only 3000 for all tha hassle just leave it walk away …easy life is worth way more than that …