My father was killed in an accident in France. There has been a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle who killed him because he was under the influence of drugs. The french lawyer has advised that the family will be awarded an amount of money in the lawsuit. They have determined that the beneficiaries are his 4 adult children (3 of which are adopted and one who is a biological son)and 6 adult grandchildren. They are awarding nothing to his other 4 grandchildren who are under 18. Apparently each of these parties is named as a beneficiary. We are concerned and cannot get answers on why the remaining 4 grandchildren have been totally unaccounted for. Ecxept for the answer "that is just French law". would such a scenario ever happen in the USA?
The 4 children of the deceased had agreed, prior to the lawsuit, that they each put equal amount of money up front for the lawyer retainer and that they split the reward equal 4 ways no matter what. Well now that the french want to include the adult grandchildren is that verbal agreement have any legal standing?
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1 Answer from Attorneys
I'm sorry to hear about your loss.
It's not clear whether you are describing a civil settlement or an insurance payout. It's also not clear whether your father was an American on a visit to France or whether he was a French citizen. (There are many other possible scenarios.) And even if he lived in the U.S., your question does not say whether he had a will or which state he lived in. With so many unanswered questions, it's hard to offer any firm guidance.
My sense is that you're asking about a civil settlement in a French lawsuit and not about probate issues in any American jurisdictions. If so, your question is about the law of France. Whether the same result would be proper here is beside the point, since American law does not govern cases in other countries' courts.
Your agreement with your siblings may be binding on the four of you, but it cannot bind third parties. The four of you have the right to split your compensation equally, but you do not have the right to split the entire amount if some of it belongs to other people, even if they're members of your family.
I encourage you to seek a second opinion from a French lawyer. You may find out that you are getting bad advice, or that there are additional steps you can take to protect your interests. But American law will not help you resolve the outcome of a French lawsuit.