Probate genealogy was born around two centuries ago; since then, the number of professional probate genealogists has grown and grown, and their activities have become more and more wide-ranging. These genealogists are genuine investigators, consulting all the people and materials they can find in order to reach their goal.
Probate Genealogists have a special partnership with notaries, and work to:
- Establish legal devolution of property for people whose heirs are either entirely or partly unknown
- Prove or disprove the inheritance rights of relatives claiming to be heirs to an estate
- Seek out heirs or legatees who have been established but whose address is unknown
Excepting cases of vacant and escheated estates, probate genealogists are authorised to carry out the wishes of anybody who has a direct and legitimate interest in identifying heirs or settling an inheritance (heirs apparent, individual legatees, inheritance creditors, notaries to whom a will has been referred or entrusted, lessors, public authorities, judges supervising a guardianship, etc.)
Though the probate genealogist’s profession is unregulated, they must strictly abide by the French Civil Code and Consumer Code.
Probate genealogists can also act as the authorised representatives of the heirs they identify; qualified in family law, they work to settle an inheritance on the heirs’ behalf. French law authorises those having fulfilled the required amount of study and obtained sufficient legal experience to practice law as an ancillary activity.
Probate genealogists are paid in two ways:
- When their work has been to reveal the inheritance rights of an unknown heir, they receive a share of the devolved assets, as stipulated in the ‘search contract’ signed by them and the heir.
- In all other cases, and notably in cases of verifying devolution of property, the genealogists’s fees are to be met by the client.