Divorces, remarriages, expatriations, isolation of the elderly … with the breakdown of the traditional family, it is not uncommon to lose contact, or even to ignore the existence of several relatives. In the event of a death, the notary responsible for settling the succession therefore sometimes has trouble finding the heirs to establish the deed of notoriety. It then happens to him to mandate an estate genealogist.
The latter must carry out research, by consulting various administrative documents such as civil status registers or archives, or by relying on the testimonies of relatives of the deceased. Once the beneficiaries have been located, he offers them to reveal to them the name of the deceased in exchange for remuneration based on a percentage resulting from the net inheritance – that is to say received after payment of taxes -, defined in a contract and generally equivalent to one third of the estate assets for distant relatives.
How to react if a genealogist contacts you?
To your surprise, you have just learned that you are inheriting from a distant relative. Before revealing the identity of the latter and the amount of the inheritance, the genealogist will ask you to sign a revelation contract. Above all, take your time. If you think you know the identity of the deceased, first try to contact his lawyer. To do this, you can consult the file of wills on the Notaires.fr site, in the “individuals” section then “donation and inheritance”.
If, on the other hand, you do not have the slightest idea of the name of your legator, then you may consider signing the contract. Be aware, however, that you are entitled to negotiate its terms. Do not hesitate to ask the genealogist to provide you with a detailed account of the steps taken and the costs incurred to find you, which will justify the price charged. You can also wait to be contacted by the notary, and notify once the estate is settled, by negotiating amicably or by going to court.
What to do in case of litigation ?
If you wish to dispute the sums requested by the mandated genealogist, several options are available to you. In case you have not signed the disclosure contract, the professional could take you to court, in order to obtain remuneration. However, in order to do this, he will have to prove that he has helped you enrich yourself, and can then only be reimbursed for expenses deemed “useful or necessary”, the amount of which is often much lower than that requested in the contracts.
In case you regret signing because you feel the costs are disproportionate, you can resort to mediation. Many will accept an amicable solution. If the specialist refuses to negotiate, you can try to contact his union: the Union of professional genealogists unions or the Chamber of inheritance genealogists. Another possibility is to contact a consumer association, which can assist you in your efforts.
Finally, as a last resort, it is possible to request a price reduction – or even the nullity of the contract – from a judge, who will assess whether the remuneration is not excessive in relation to the service rendered.
A legal vagueness
At present, the remuneration of genealogists is not framed by an established scale. They can freely set the percentage of the inheritance action they wish to receive for the work carried out, which leads to very strong disparities.
The share can amount from 10% to more than 40% of the amount received by the heirs. Several parliamentarians therefore wish to put an end to it in order to avoid abuses, but until today, the Ministry of Justice refuses to follow up.