The 5 questions generally asked
(click on the questions for an answer)
1/ Why search for heirs?
Every year, 350,000 estates are settled without the need for a Probate Genealogist, meaning the heirs are fully identified and known and that the settlement may be carried out without the risk of any being overlooked.
However, where there are either partially or totally unknown heirs and there is uncertainty as to the existence of some, and the deceased has left no instructions in the will, recourse to a Probate Genealogist is required.
2/ Don't Notaries Public have the means to find heirs?
As public officials, Notaries Public are charged with drawing up the different acts allowing estate settlement, liquidation and division. They draw up the affidavit stating the proof as heir (art. 730.1 French Civil Code). They draw up the estate inventory comprising an article-by-article estimate for the assets and liabilities (art. 789 French Civil Code). They certify the transfer of properties. Finally, they are authorised to receive and hold funds in their accounts on behalf of third parties (art. 15 and subsequent in Decree n°45-0117 dated 19/12/1945 of French legislation) and their accounting records are valid as public deeds.
This general estate settlement task firstly gives them the responsibility of setting the rights and status of the heirs and they must provide complete supervision in obtaining a complete exact devolution of estate. In this task, they must perform the necessary investigations to identify and locate heirs.
By law, they must not merely accept the statements of the heirs or close relations of the deceased; they are responsible for verifying the plausibility of the statements made using the information at their disposal.
If the latter are not sufficient, they then approach a trusted Probate Genealogist who will provide all guarantees on the right to inherit of each heir found.
3/ How much does it cost?
Where there is an estate deficit, Probate Genealogists commit to covering all expenses incurred whatever the amount; in this way, heirs never have to advance or pay out anything.
Where the Notary Public requires verification as the known heirs fail to provide sufficiently reliable or precise elements, Probate Genealogists agree, as per the quality of the information provided, a set fee to be paid by all heirs.
4/ How long does it take to carry out a genealogy search?
Each case is different and different criteria may have an influence, perhaps due to regions affected by war, the preservation of certain documents, the reliability of certain administrations, the difficulty in finding certain individuals, etc.
Probate Genealogists will always do what they can to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible.
Just by hanging a plaque on the door or claiming to have several offices is not always a way to gauge credibility – one needs to know what lies behind that.
Experience is important, as a good professional will have maintained credibility with legal professionals, administrations and colleagues, although this should not hinder the chance for new Probate Genealogists to set up.
However, membership of a professional Chamber is a guarantee, since, where a Probate Genealogist commits misfeasance, the governing bodies may be alerted and hold the member accountable.
Members of the CHAMBRE DES GENEALOGISTES SUCCESSORAUX DE France (Chamber of Probate Genealogists of France) are assessed before admission and must fulfil the clearly-defined guarantees in the interest of those who commission them and the heirs they find.