Recovery from a sanctioned estate

The Cour de Cassation (French Supreme Court) has reminded that the inheritance of a disabled person cannot be deducted if the beneficiary has provided effective and constant care for the disabled person.

On the principle of support:

The article L344-5 of the Social Action and Families Code provides that "The costs of accommodation and maintenance for handicapped persons accommodated, regardless of their age, in establishments mentioned in b of 5° and 7° of I of article L. 312-1, with the exception of those accommodated in establishments falling under article L. 344-1, are the responsibility:

As a primary responsibility, the disabled person themselves, without the contribution requested from them being able to bring their resources below a minimum set by decree and with reference to the adult disabled allowance, which varies depending on whether they work or not. This minimum does not take into account performance-related bonuses paid by the state to French Paralympic medalists. This minimum is increased, where applicable, by the amount of life annuities referred to in Article 199 septies of the General Tax Code, as well as the capitalized interests generated by funds invested in the contracts referred to in 2° of I of Article 199 septies of the same code, and by the amount of the bonus referred to in Article L. 841-1 of the Social Security Code;

And, for any remaining amount, from social assistance without taking into account the contribution that may be requested from persons who are required to provide support to the interested party, and without applying the provisions relating to the recovery of social assistance benefits when the heirs of the deceased beneficiary are their spouse, children, parents, or the person who has effectively and constantly assumed the burden of the disabled person, neither on the legatee nor on the donee or beneficiary of a life insurance contract.

Amounts paid as part of social assistance in this context are not subject to recovery from the beneficiary when they have recovered their financial standing."

  • This means that social assistance compensates for the financial deficiency of the disabled person who must bear the main costs of accommodation.
  • No appeal for reimbursement is possible on the death of the lodged against persons called for example to his estate, or beneficiaries of a life insurance contract, who are respectively his spouse, his children or his parents or even a person who has effectively and consistently assumed responsibility for the disabled person.

On the facts:

Following a traffic accident, Mrs X acquired the status of disabled person. It was under these circumstances that she was placed in a nursing home from July 1, 2009 to September 22, 2014, the date of her death. Madame X's sister contributed €90,000 to the costs of specialized accommodation from 2009 to 2014. She also took care of the maintenance of a property in joint ownership with her sister.

Still, following the death of Mrs. X, her sister, sole heiress, benefited from sufficient sums to pay all the costs related to specialized accommodation. This is how the Departmental Council of the North exercised an action for recovery on the assets of Mrs. X's estate, based on article L.344-5 of the code of social action and families.

On the procedure:

The amicable appeal commission considered that the care and support were justified by the sum of €90,000 to be deducted from the sums to be recovered by the department from the estate assets, while recognizing that Mrs. X's sister had assumed effective and constant responsibility for the disabled person. However, the commission condemned her to pay the sum of €180,654.77, it being specified that all accommodation costs amounted to €270,654.47.

In its judgment of February 16, 2021, the Court of Appeal of Amiens did not retain the effective and constant care by the sister of Madame X and confirmed the decision of the amicable appeals committee. The Court had in fact considered this care as falling within his family ties and his loyalty between members of the same family. However, it was common ground that Madame X's sister had been present with her on a regular and practical basis. What's more, she had maintained an immovable property in joint possession with her sister.

The sister of Mrs. X then appealed to the Court of Cassation, which for the record strictly applies the law, as opposed to the judges of first instance (judicial tribunals and courts of appeal) who also consider the facts. Thus, on January 26, 2023, the Court of Cassation overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal of Amiens and referred the case to another court. It took into account her constant and effective support, as well as her financial contribution of €90,000 to the housing costs and also to the maintenance of the property held in indivision.

On the scope of the judgment of the Court of Cassation:

The Court of Appeal of Amiens thus distorted the very text of Article L344-5 of the Social Action and Families Code. Distortion consists of a judge interpreting a text, which is not allowed and can lead to annulment.

But you also have to take good care of your loved ones…