My brother died in France

Hello. If possible I’d like some advice please. My brother and sister-in-law have lived in France for over 10 years (in the Nontron area Dordogne). Both retired teachers, now in their 70’s. Sadly my brother died on New Years Eve, he’d been very ill with cancer for 7 years. My sister-in-law is having a nightmare trying to sort things out. They have no children but he didn’t leave a will. The funeral has already happened but apparently the death certificate has no “cause of death” on it. She’s been put in touch with a French Notaire who is totally lacking any empathy and telling her she needs to get this and that sorted, saying there’s lack of information on various things etc. and has already charged her 300 euros. Her French is pretty good but she’s in quite a state and doesn’t know what’s going on. I’d like to find her an English person who speaks French and knows about such things in France and can help walk her through all of this. I perfectly understand there will be a charge. Thanks.

Condolences, first of all.

Was your brother-in-law in hospital or at home when he died, was there a doctor in attendance? Who declared the death? You need an Acte de décès : this tells you what needs to be on it

which it should be possible to sort out now.
Leaving no will means the code civil takes over decisions about the disposal of his esatate.

I sympathise, however, the notaire may lack empathy but they are doing their job.

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I’m very sorry to hear that, Terri, to lose a brother is bad enough but to then have to try and sort out things in a system and language foreign to you must be very hard.

I can’t give you any direct help other than to say that our wills were drawn up in Nontron some 20 odd years ago by a local Notaire, name of Maitre Goiti. I doubt he is still working but his office more than likely is and the reason we went to him was because an English woman worked there and she was a very great help in setting everything up.

More than likely she isn’t there any more either, but if you haven’t already come across this Notaire’s office it is possible that someone there will know of this lady. She was married to a Frenchman, a doctor in the local hospital.

I have just found this link to him, might help, I do hope so.

Thank you David. I will look into that.

So sorry about your loss.

If your sister in law approaches her Mairie, I’m sure they will kindly help her and/or point her in the right direction.

The Nontron area has many English residents and the Mairie will be well used to being consulted.

Incidentally, it is not unusual to be asked for a payment (on account) at the first meeting with a Notaire.

EDIT: I’m wondering if the Funeral Directors gave your SiLaw a booklet, when she was organizing the ceremony with them.
One gave me just such a booklet which (amongst other things) clearly listed what one should do, documents to find, people to notify-contact… etc etc

(I’ve just had a quick look and sadly mine has gone missing…)

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Thank you. He died at home. Samu was called and a death certificate was signed. They said it was a heart attack. This is what I don’t understand about why they say there’s no cause of death.

Hello Terri, so sorry to hear of your loss and the challenges for you and your sister-in-law when dealing with a different culture and language (however well one speaks it).

Just to confirm what’s been already said, unfortunately notaires are agents of the state and they are not “on your side”, which can make them seem less than empathetic.

Just a couple of thoughts …

The Chaplaincy in Aquitaine can be a very good place for support because of course they have a lot of experience of this. There is no issue about whether or not your sister-in-law is Christian. They will still give help. This is their website:

Secondly, some years back on another forum someone put together an “everything you need to do in France in the context of a death” in English. It’s a bit of a hotchpotch and obviously quite a bit of this will have already been dealt with. But there may be something here that your sister-in-law finds helpful.

It’s in a pdf format. Just to warn, unfortunately some of the links may now be out of date. I’ve just realised it was done in 2011, but hopefully there is some guidance here.

Death To Do.pdf (343.4 KB)


that link looks very useful… @spj

here is the French government link as well…