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Probate Genealogy

Our role

Professional probate genealogists are instructed generally by the Notary in charge of winding-up an Estate or by an heir.

Our main tasks

  • to establish or confirm the devolution of estate
  • to search for and/or represent heirs and legatees
  • to search for the origins of ownership
  • assistance in establishing title to property

Our working methods

With authorisation from the State Prosecutors, the professional genealogist can have access to the registers of births, marriages and deaths less than 75 years' old. Searches through older registers are made in the municipal and departmental archives. But many other documents have to be consulted to ensure the composition of each family.

A Genealogical Study is regularly carried out to undertake research in foreign countries where it is authorised to consult civil and religious archives.

Our warranties

While our firm has been engaged in providing genealogical probate research for many years, which is a testimony to the seriousness with which we undertake our work, the partners in our EIG have taken the additional precaution of securing professional liability insurance with La Sécurité Nouvelle , providing notaries and clients with cover for errors in genealogy as well as for the representation of the funds they hold on behalf of their clients.

We are members of the Chamber of Succession Genealogists of France, the French National Trade Union of Genealogists and of the Association of Professional Genealogists of the USA.

Our Background

Originally from the Loire and coming from a family of solicitors some of whose descendants are still carrying on this profession, in 1945 Paul BESSON decided to set up his own genealogical practice in Marseilles. Even though there were very few of them, competition was particularly strong, but his professional competencies and his legal training enabled his true value to be rapidly appreciated. Over several years, he built up archives for Marseilles and which are now digitized.

The following year, the FRENCH CHAMBER OF GENEALOGISTS was set up. At that time, it had only a few members, at the most about 10, the majority of whom had their head office in Paris, and the others in Bordeaux, Lille and Marseilles. No new members joined this chamber up to 1975, the date on which Paul BESSON decided to retire and was appointed Patrick BERTRAND as his successor, he himself from the legal profession in which field he had already worked for several years first as a clerk then as a senior clerk.

Three years later, the FRENCH CHAMBER OF GENEALOGISTS received a new member, Bruno COMBE LABOISSIERE, himself belonging to a family of solicitors and holder of this degree, set up in CHAMBERY. The family finally grew, and this same year, on the death of Maurice COUTOT, who had presided over it since its creation, Patrick BERTRAND, took over the duties of Chairman. He then sketched out a GENEALOGISTS' CHARTER that his successors implemented and very widely circulated to courts.

In 1993, Patrick BERTRAND met Michèle BLAISE, originally from the Var, but established in Nice where she worked as an auctioneer's clerk then a barrister's clerk, and who very soon became his partner.

Nicolas DOQUIN, son of Gérard, himself Genealogist, began to work as a Genealogist with Patrick BERTRAND and, after obtaining his Diploma in Notarial Law, started his association with him in 2004. Nicolas DOQUIN joined the National Association of Genealogists, 46, quai Henri IV, 75004 PARIS.

Following her début as a lawyer for the City Hall of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Émilie FERRE BRUN, graduate from the Faculty of Law of Montpellier, wishing to return to her origins, collaborated with Patrick BERTRAND and Nicolas DOQUIN and subsequently became their associate in Montpellier.

Everyone has now has been working in a fascinating profession for many years, so that, every evening, they can look forwards to the next day with joy and serenity. In addition, the cohesion prevailing among them allows them to be completely interchangeable when necessary, which both the heirs and the liquidating solicitors appreciate. And if more can be done, they go to great lengths to do so.

Out of this alliance came the G.I.E. "GENEALO-GIE".

Revealing the succession

Through the searches undertaken, the probate genealogist is in a position to offer to reveal a right of inheritance in favour of an heir or entitled person. In consideration for uncovering this right, a beneficiary agrees to assign the probate genealogist a portion of the net assets to which he or she is entitled, as payment of fees. These fees are only paid when the matter has been completed. The beneficiary is not required to make any down-payment. The probate genealogist agrees to provide evidence of the beneficiary's capacity as heir and his or her portion of the inheritance, and to represent the beneficiary at all stages of winding-up the Estate.

Succession to an Estate

The reform of 3 December 2001 (Law 2001-1135 art 745) has limited succession through the indirect line to the sixth degree.

Renouncing a share under an Estate

The 30-year time limit has been reduced to 10 years.

Art 780 - Law of 24 June 2006 comes into effect on 1 January 2007 : "the option (to accept or renounce an entitlement) is limited in time to ten years with effect from the opening of the succession"

Art 804 : " The renunciation of a claim under an estate is not assumed. To be binding on third parties, the renunciation of a claim by the sole heir or heir to the whole estate must be made at the Regional Court ( Tribunal de Grande Instance ) within whose jurisdiction the succession is opened."

It should also be noted that neither the signature on the disclosure contract nor the disclosure letter shall oblige the heir to accept the estate.

If the heir wishes to renounce the estate, the Genealogist will carry out all the necessary procedures for him/her and free of charge.

Declaration of estate and payment of death duties (inheritance tax)

The heirs (or their legal representatives) must complete and return this detailed declaration on specially printed forms, within 6 months of the death, and lodge it with the tax collection office of the deceased's place of permanent residence. The declaration of estate must contain: the identity of the deceased, of the heirs and legatees, the date of death, the family relationship, previous donations, a list and estimated value of the estate assets (exempt property included) and liabilities.

Payment of inheritance tax should, in theory, be made within six months of the death. However, the provisions of article 3637 of the "Dictionary of Registration" oblige heirs to file the declaration within six months of the date on which they first knew of the said succession being opened: In the case in point, with effect from the date on which the genealogist made the revelation. The involvement of the Genealogist thus enables an application to be made to set aside any penalties and interest incurred for delayed settlement of the estate duties."

Interest for late payment

Up to 1 January 2006: 0.75% per month. After 1 January 2006: 0.40% per month

Articles of the French Civil Code on the devolution of estate

"Art. 734 of the French Civil Code. – When there is no spouse entitled to inherit, the relatives shall inherit as follows:

  • "1° children and their descendants;
  • "2° father and mother; brothers and sisters and their descendants;
  • "3° ascendants other than father and mother;
  • "4° collateral relatives other than brothers and sisters and their descendants.
  • "Each of these four categories constitutes an order of heirs which excludes the following.

"Art. 735. – The children or their descendants shall inherit from their father and mother or other ascendants, without distinction of gender, nor of primogeniture, even if they are from different marriages.

"Art. 736. – When the deceased leaves neither descendants, nor brother, nor sister, nor the latter's descendants, his father and mother shall each inherit half the estate.

"Art. 737. – When the father and mother have predeceased the deceased and that the latter has no descendants, the deceased's brothers and sisters shall inherit from him/her, to the exclusion of other relatives, ascendants or collateral relatives.

"Art. 738. – When the father and mother survive the deceased and that the latter has no descendants, but brothers and sisters or their descendants, one quarter of the estate is devolved upon the father and one quarter to the mother and, the remaining half to the brothers sisters or to their descendants.

"When only either the father or mother survive, one quarter of the estate is devolved upon him/her and three-quarters to the brothers and sisters or their descendants.

"Art 738-1. – When only the father or the mother are surviving and that the deceased has neither descendants nor brother nor sister nor descendants of the latter, but leaves one or more ascendants of the branch other than that of his surviving father or mother, half the estate shall be devolved upon the father or the mother and half upon the ascendants of the other branch.

"Art. 739. – If there are no first-degree heirs, the estate shall be devolved upon ascendants other than the father and mother.

"Art. 740. – If there are no heirs in the first three degrees, the estate shall be devolved upon the deceased's collateral relatives other than their brothers and sisters and their descendants."

"Art. 745. – The collateral relatives shall not inherit beyond the sixth degree.

ACT No. 2006- 728 OF 23 JUNE 2006 APPLICABLE FROM 1 JANUARY 2007


The right to inherit by the lineal ascendants (applicable retroactively to estates not liquidated transmitted as of 1 July 2002)

"Art. 738-1. – When only the father or the mother survives and that the deceased had neither descendants nor brother nor sister nor the latter's descendants, but leaves one or more ascendants in the branch other than that of his/her surviving father or mother, half the estate is devolved upon the father or the mother and half to the ascendants of the other branch."

The repeal of Article 914 of the French Civil Code abolishes the ascendants' reserved portion of the estate.

The new donor father and mother's legal right of contingent reversion :

"Art. 738-2. – When the father and mother or one of them survive the deceased and that the latter has no descendants, in all case, they can exercise a right of reversion, up to the shares stipulated in the first paragraph of Article 738, on the property that they had donated to the deceased."

Where there is a spouse :

"Art 757-3 – Notwithstanding Article 757-2, in the case where the father and mother are predeceased, the property the deceased had received from his/her ascendants by inheritance or donation and which are by nature in the estate, when there are no descendants, half of it shall be devolved upon the brothers and sisters of the deceased or their descendants, themselves descendants of the predeceased parent or parents who originally made the transmission."

In the case of simple adoption :

"Art 368-1 - In the adopted person's estate, if there are no descendants and surviving spouse, the property donated by the adopting party included in his/her estate shall revert to the adopting party or his/her descendants, if they still actually exist when the adopted party deceases, on condition that they contribute to the debts and subject to rights acquired by third parties. The property that the adopted party had received free of charge from his/her father and mother shall revert in the same way to them or their descendants. The adopted person's surplus property is divided half to the original family and half to the adopting party's family, without prejudice to the spouse's rights to the entire estate."

Representation :

Art 754 of the French Civil Code :

"Article 754 is accordingly amended:

a) The words: "the renouncing parties are not represented" are replaced by the words: "the renouncing parties are only represented in estates devolved upon to

b) After the first paragraph, two paragraphs as follows are inserted: "The children of the renouncing parties conceived before the estate is passed to their heirs whose renouncement was excluded shall return to the latter's estate the property they inherited in their stead, if they are in competition with other children conceived after the estate is passed. The reversion is made according to the provisions set forth in section 2 of Chapter VIII of this Book. Unless the donor wishes otherwise, where a renouncing party is represented, the donations made to the latter are taken from share of the reserve which should have come to him/her if he/she had not renounced it." It seems that the author omitted to make it clear if it concerned representation "was linear or preferential collateral."

The spouse's rights :

The spouse is the person entitled to a reserved portion of the estate when there are no descendants

"Art 732 of French Civil Code : The spouse entitled to inherit is the non-divorced spouse"


« I thank you for your courtesies and professionalism througout the adminsitration of this etat. »

« It is appropriate that I thankyou and Michelle on behalf of my mother and family for your patience in dealing with us while in New Zealand. It was a lot to assimilate in a short space of time but in the end your professionalism won through and we are grateful. »

michele blaise michele blaise