The full settlement period of an estate. It depends largely on the specific nature of each case. On average it is six months. In case of delay, interest at 0.20% per month is due to the tax authorities.

Estate settlement includes 4 stages

  1. The notary drawing up a list of people who will receive the inheritance and their respective rights
  2. The notary will also search the wills database before drawing up a full statement of the deceased 's property
  3. The notary will carry out themortgage and tax formalities
  4. Division constitutes the 4th stage in the process

This is also the maximum time imposed on the heirs to pay estate taxes, the delai is a year for the deceased died outside France. If the delay exceeds six months, plus a 10% penalty.

1. The notary drawing up a list of people who will receive the inheritance and their respective rights

To do this, the notary needs the relatives of the deceased to provide the documents needed to identify the family members concerned by the inheritance (family record book [livret de famille], marriage contrac­t, divorce ruling, etc...).

The notary also needs to receive any documents in which the deceased named one or more persons to receive all or part of his/her inheritance: Wills and gifts between spouses.

The notaire also queries the Central Registry of Wills.

2. The notary will drawing up a full statement of the deceased's property and listing the assets

The notaire will also search the wills database before drawing up a full statement of the deceased's property and listing the assets (bank accounts, securities, movables and real estate) as well as their value and any debts.

To do this, the notaire needs to be provided with all the relevant documents ( instruments of title, bank statements, savings books, invoices) needed to value the assets and liabilities of the inheritance , and to be informed about the various financial operations the deceased may have carried out in life (purchases, sales, exchanges, creation of companies, gifts ).

Depending on the complexity of the estate, the notaire will draw up a simple statement of the assets or an inventory.

3. The notary will carry out the mortgage and tax formalities

  • drawing-up and publication, in the land registration service, of an estate certificate (transferring the ownership to the heirs),
  • drafting of a statement of inheritance together with payment of any inheritance tax to the tax office within six months from the death, and any application for deferred or staggered payment of the taxes.

At this point in the process, the heirs may decide whether or not to divide all or some of the assets .

4. Division constitutes the 4th stage in the process

The heirs may decide not to opt for division: they also stay in a being in joint ownership scheme.

But if being in joint ownership is considered too restrictive, the heirs may choosedivision of the assets . In theory they can do this at any time. Although it is usually possible to come to an amicable agreement.

If there is serious disagreement, (on how the various shares are made up, or the value set on them, for example) the case must be submitted to a judge, which results in further delays and costs.

Specific formalies of probate

Along with these stages which are common to all cases of inheritance , they may also be specific formalies.

  • The presence of a minor child or protected adult (under guardianship or supervision) among the heirs may require a board of guardians and family members to be convened, the guardianship judge to be consulted or their authorisation to be obtained. These formalities may take several months.
  • In addition, certain types of assets such as businesses, farms or companies the operations of which must be maintained or transferred, require special formalities
  • it is sometimes necessary to appoint an assessor or court-appointed administrator.
  • Finding an unknown heir or legatee sometimes requires the services of a genealogist whose shall make his investigation whose duration is often not predictable.

Many other factors can affect the settlement of an inheritance such as how good the relations are between the heirs, how large the estate and its debts are, the existence of foreign heirs or property located abroad. All these factors can influence how long it takes for an inheritance to go through probate.

What is the cost of settling an inheritance?

The cost of settling an inheritance can also vary considerably. A notaire can only estimate the bill once he/she has gathered all the essential information.

More information about the notaire's fee.

Claim his/her inheritance

Since 2007, an heir can claim his/her inheritance for 10 rather only instead of 30 years. 

Four months after a death, notice to decide may be served on heirswho have not come forward.

The heirs may undertake certain types of day-to-day management (such as paying rent, bills, etc. without formally accepting theirinheritance, i.e.) without making themselves personally liable for all the debts.

In the event of unforeseen liabilities being discovered that are a serious burden on an heir's inheritance, the courts may authorise anheir to withdraw his/her acceptance.

The procedure of accepting inheritance up to a ceiling of the net assets means that an heir is only liable for debts up to the totalassets inherited.

Where undivided shares are concerned, simple decisions can be passed on a two-thirds majority rather than unanimity being required.

In order to divide the assets, a representative may be appointed to replace a co-owner who refuses to acknowledge his/her fellow heirs’ requests.

Where there is significant disagreement between the heirs, a legal representative may be appointed with powers set by the courts. These powers may include selling off the assets of the inheritance.

Measures permit the division of property remaining in joint ownership . The aim is to get out of joint ownership more easily and to avoid recourse to the courts.

Frequently asked questions