Suppose someone went missing and no body is found, nor any other sign of what became of her. I believe in France it takes 10 years before a missing person is assumed dead when there's no actual proof of death (Wikipedia, but other sources appear to confirm it)

The missing person had two grandchildren as her only living heirs (husband dead, no siblings, children also dead). She adopted both of them when their parents died, and they lived with her at the time of her disappearance. At least one of them was 18 or older at the time.

Assume there is no sign of foul play by the two heirs.

They can't inherit until their grandmother is legally considered dead, I'm sure, so what happens in the ten years before she's declared dead in absentia? Can they keep living in the house during that time?

  • Welcome to the site. We have a one question per post policy and you have asked three. Please reduce this to one and ask your other questions in separate posts.
    – Dale M
    Apr 22, 2017 at 23:43
  • @DaleM Sorry. Focusing on just the first question, then
    – user11681
    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:34
  • Is there a will? The closest heirs will inherit the property regardless...was there a life estate deed issued prior to the grandmother's disappearance?
    – E.Grossman
    Jun 23, 2017 at 17:09
  • @E.Grossman I'm not sure about a life estate deed, but this is a fictional situation so whether there is a will or a deed of any kind depends on whether it would be helpful. Assume whatever works. But my understanding is that no one can inherit - whether there is a will or not - until the grandmother has been declared dead by a judge, and that's going to take 10 years at least. In the meantime, what happens to the house? No one can inherit it yet, regardless of any will or deed, so ...?
    – user11681
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


I can't speak for french law.

This answer will focus on UK law but may be applicable in other jurisdictions:

Staying in someone's house without permission may be tresspass. However in practice if that person is missing then no one is going to be able to sue for tresspass.

Generally speaking, only the landowner or legal occupier of the premesis may kick out the grandchildren, so as long as no one kicks them out, they can stay.

  • Are you saying that if a home owner goes missing, I can just move in and live there for free and nobody can stop me?
    – gnasher729
    Apr 23, 2017 at 22:09
  • Correct, only the homeowner or the legal occupier (e.g. a tenant) can remove you. Note that this doesnt make you the new owner (it might after a long time passes, under adverse possession laws), it just that if no one excercises their ownership over the property against your trespass, you could in theory squat in it indefinitely Apr 24, 2017 at 0:16
  • The concern is, I think, that with two or more heirs, one could claim the other(s) took something from the house or did something to the house that changed its value. Thus, to prevent any such claims, no one is allowed to enter the house until all heirs and claimants have been located and the inheritance divided. And that naturally can't happen until the owner is legally considered dead.
    – user11681
    Apr 24, 2017 at 6:07
  • I remember something like that when my grandmother died. While I wasn't part of all the practical formalities surrounding it, I seem to recall the lawyer being very strict about who could enter the house, and then only with someone else there if I recall.
    – user11681
    Apr 24, 2017 at 6:13
  • But maybe, my thinking goes, since the two grandchildren already live in the house legally they might also have a right to not be thrown out on the street. So maybe they are allowed to live there, but aren't allowed to get rid of anything in the house or make any changes that would negatively affect the value of the house.
    – user11681
    Apr 24, 2017 at 6:17

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