Nursing Home Costs Court Summons

Sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it? Family members should be responsible for parents costs or part of them. Thing is I have been sent a order to appear in court in Valence with proofs of wage slips etc regarding the costs of my mother-in-laws nursing home costs. Thing is my wife died 3 and 1/2 years ago and I am not related. I do not live in France and I do not visit etc. - well very often. It seems absurd the summons counter signed by my ex-brother in law stating they want me in place of my daughter (at uni) who is not paying. There are 3 surviving children - the one son (a self employed plumber) is not contributing (surprise surprise) the two others are moaning they are paying 600 and 300. They are claiming they did not suggest I should be called to the court (oh dear) but clearly they are fishing hoping I will take pity. In that case in Scotland the court would not send a summons that falls outwith the law- therefore I am wondering why send it and for me to come will probably cost a months care home costs.

I have read a few things saying death and divorce strike at 205 of the code civil but I don’t know how you trace precedent in France.

I am aware that there are 2 run down houses worth 120,000 but quelle surprise they can’t agree any offers received. The errant plumbing son the main objector - well he doesn’t care.

The whole thing is typically French, houses crumbling into oblivion, an un announced summons rather than saying - can you give us a hand we’ll sort it out when the houses sell and such that the warning bells are ringing - I can walk into court without proper information and get handed a bill for the lot and my break for the border prevented or if I don’t go I get picked up at CDG months later and sent to the legion.

What is the position here as apparently contacting the court results in them saying we don’t set the law -
so £1000 to go there and tell them I am supporting a daughter at uni, have no pension at all as i can’t afford it and will |I be able to summon the French family if my folks go into care?

Any advice or possible referral would be much appreciated. There is also apparently acres of land left to my late wife and other heritage that was left to the children when my late wife’s father’s parents died. It has gone from acres of vines and woodland to complete silence presumably as if they wait long enough no one will be left alive to share in it. Apparently the uncle who basically drunk the place dry and drove around the village in a tractor for 30 years lives in the farmhouse and is claiming 30 years wages under Bonaparte law of farms and sons so the farm has been allowed to die as the rest of the family are terrified of the man. I am not so easily frightened and I am sure that Napoleonic wish to retain farm houses indefinitely was really aimed at the chateau Hougmont - sorry French readers!

Rant over

Thank you

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Incidentally the French medical care when I brought my French wife home when she was terminally ill was magnificent. She was only 44 - the level of attention and the willingness to cut through red tape for her was heart rending. The care at home included a full hospital bed, oxygen tanks, a full medicine cabinet and multiple visits a day often off the staff’s own back on their way home etc. The doctors and consultants turned up when they said, called you sir and were actually emotional. The consultants ate with the staff and wore jeans - no pin stripe suits and I’m off to my private clinic now as in the UK. It was night and day better in France.

Hi there…

In your shoes, I would take the document to my nearest Legal Advisor for clarification.

Where are you living at the moment?

Something you could look at would be, your daughter renouncing her part of the inheritance.
There is an official legal procedure for doing this, and basically it means that you/she lose the right to any inheritance and you also lose the family obligations.
Your mother-in-law would have to agree, because as an adult you cannot disinherit yourself unilaterally.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if in fact this might be what the family are hoping to achieve through this summons business, and if that’s the case then if you suggest it they might agree instantly.
Not knowing the circumstances I don’t know if this would be a good solution for you or not. In theory, on a level playing field, it is a fair arrangement in that it ensure that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand - either you are ‘in’ and you pay your dues now and inherit later, or you are ‘out’ and you can wash your hands of the family and they of you. But, you would have to work out exactly what you would be renouncing, and whether you want to do that or not.
My (French) ex-partner did this because his father had remarried and had another family and his new wife wanted my ex out of the equation and it was causing arguments within the family. In the end they effectively bought him off by giving him a large lump sum in exchange for him agreeing to renounce his inheritance. It didn’t seem a complicated process.

I had something similar a few years ago. My mother moved to france and ended up in nursing home, they promptly sent me invoices which I returned. Summoned me to court in Brittany but I didnt turn up. Invoices kept coming so I eventually got a solicitor. They eventually appointed a social worker who admitted there was no reciprical agreement with Jersey and admitted they couldnt make me pay. There was no inheritance but code civil says family members are responsible for parents care.

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In France both ascendants and descendants are responsible for each other and have to help out when one up or down the line is in need and they can afford to pay. This includes in-laws. So both you and your daughter are responsible for helping out with the living costs of your mother in law if she needs help. She can ask for help herself (via the courts) or social services can. Your wife’s death doesn’t absolve you of the responsiblity. Normally, a son or daughter in law only loses this responsiblity for their spouse’s ascendants (can be spouse’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents) when both their spouse and any children of their marriage have died. A child (and therefore their spouse) can get out of this if they have been treated badly by their parents. For instance if they have been abused or if the parent never maintained them as a child and they had no relationship. You have to contribute if you can afford it. The amount that can be ordered depends upon your circumstances (hence different children paying different amounts).

I don’t believe inheritance (renouncing it or not) has anything to do with this obligation. If you renounce an inheritance then you can get out of paying debts of an estate but I’ve never heard of it affecting the obligation of care of ascentants or descendants. They can pursue you and once you have been notified your obligation has started - they can’t pursue you for arrears if you weren’t aware that you were liable.

Foupierre’s original posts on this topic…are a little complicated and may not apply to most of us. I note he has not posted since lighting the blue touchpaper…:wink:

However, it is worth noting that we are all responsible for the welfare of our family. This could be why so many older folk do stay in their own homes, with an amazing level of care provided (at a cost or under insurance etc).

A dilapidated property in our village went to auction a few years ago. Seems the guy had died in a long-term institution/hospital leaving outstanding bills. His heirs had the choice of paying or handing over the property… they took one look at the property and handed it over. Thus they were not held liable for his debt.

No idea if this is unusual or not…

The important part is that this is french code civile and therefore it cannot be enforced on non french residents if there is no reciprocal arrangement brtween France and the country of residence of the descendants


can you suggest a French solicitor please? Thank you

I have been away working so have not been able to reply.

Kind regards


I do not know where you are living/based…

but why not use a Solicitor local to you… you can give him all the paperwork and let him sort things out for you…

Just to update the community and this information is very useful as it is at variance with what we from the UK would expect or assume, it is French law that sons and daughters in law owe a duty to a parent in law in need of sustenance (basically any living costs unless you let them live with you) and **that does not expire on death of your spouse if you have surviving children. This is contained in Article 206 of the French Code Civil. I have copied the translation below. It would also seem that just because your in laws have their own surviving children this obligation falls in no particular order. It does not end if you get remarried either.

It is however reciprocal therefore if you find yourself in need you can request that your in laws assist you and they are also bound to do so. Also your duty to yourself and your close kin takes precedence and if you cannot afford to contribute that is a plea you need to make under article 208.

It seems a fairly onerous obligation but having researched it as with many of these laws it has historical roots that make sense and possibly our culture differs a lot in this respect. Certainly in Scotland the in-laws are usually suffered or feared or both. To have to accept a lifetime bond at marriage would probably end the institution of marriage in Scotland. I spent sometime looking at the Code Civil in respect of families and it does instil a duty on families to look after each other which differs from the UK situation and I would suggest if you live in France you do get to know how you are affected by the obligations of the civil code.

If you live in France you fall under the Code Civil.

If any one has questions on this please contact me.

Art. 205
(Act n° 72-3 of 3 Jan. 1972)
Children owe maintenance to their father and mother or other ascendants who are in need.
Art. 206
(Act of 9 Aug. 1919)
Sons- and daughters-in-law owe likewise and under the same circumstances, maintenance to their father- and mother-in-law, but this obligation ceases where the spouse owing to whom the affinity existed and the children born of his or her union with the other spouse are dead.


Hi Marie,
I came across this post, I know this is 2 years old, but has anything developed since you posted this? I have a similar situation with a family member that I am trying to assist. We have a French grandmother residing in France, specifically in a nursing home. Our mother’s are currently paying for this expense. We were told that if our mother’s pass, it will be the grandchild’s responsibility, the ones that reside in France and the US. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Valerie
Nothing much more to add I’m afraid. It was decided that that there is no reciprocal agreement between Jersey and France so they could not enforce payments for me. For anyone living in France I think they can enforce payment under the code civile unless you can prove you can’t afford to pay. I don’t know anything about US law so wouldn’t know if its enforceable. I suppose you can wait to be summoned to french court, after which they will look into bringing to a court in your country. Unfortunately cost me a fortune in local lawyers fees trying to look into it from Jersey when they didnt know the french law.
French Code civile does say you are responsible for care of any ascendants but does seem harsh to be held to a law when you dont live in the country. Good luck with french bureaucracy.

Why shouldn’t children look after their parents? Why should it be someone else’s responsibility? (Leaving aside the cases where parents abandon/mistreat their children, apart from anything else it is a reciprocal thing, surely).
I find the apparently common UK attitude of dumping your family (descendants and/or ascendants) as soon as you can absolutely extraordinary and horrible.

When children have stolen from you, trashed your home, been verbally abusive and generally behaved as if you have no connection to them other than a source of funds should they continue to be supported?

When parents have refused contact with a child since age 16, and not wanted to have any involvement in their adult life, should they continue to be supported? Particularly if supporting the parent would cause the child (now adult) financial hardship?

There are many nuances that don’t cross the line into formal abuse, so a blanket requirement that families should continue support ad infinitum doesn’t sit comfortably with me. But with an ever ageing society it’s an urgent question to look at, as now have people in their late 60’s having to continue to work to pay for their parents.

I did say

And it should be reciprocal, so unless parents have been awful, why shouldn’t children support them? The majority of parents I should think support their children, however ghastly they can be at times.

I’ll flip this on its head and ask why should they?

Trying to encourage debate rather than start an argument :slight_smile:

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I think you have to remember that whilst it might seem bizarre from an Anglo Saxon perspective (where parents can merrily disinherit their offspring and leave the lot to the local donkey sanctuary), it makes sense in France where inheritance laws are quite different.

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Yes, agree totally that there is a big cultural element in this - and there are strong arguments that kids should look after heir parents (who, after all paid out to bring them up).

However there is a generation at present who are squeezed between looking after their own children and their aged parents.

Also, family dynamics are important. I’m not on speaking terms with my father, admittedly largely due to my sister’s delusional meddling - so, while I wouldn’t exactly want to abandon him, anyone who suggested that I pay significant sums towards his care would get short shrift 'm afraid.

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