PARIS - Europe's grim economic news now appears to be following more and more families all the way to the grave. In France, a new report shows that a rising number of people are dying in debt, leaving children unable to cover the costs to creditors -- and ultimately forced to legally renounce succession.

Disclaimed inheritances increased by 33.5% between 2004 and 2010, according to figures given by the Ministry of Justice. This upward trend seems to be accelerating in 2011, which could well turn out to be a record year. The high cost of living and rising housing and energy prices has forced more retirees to take loans to make ends meet; and when they die, their debts are passed onto their heirs, with burdens averaging between 20,000 and 60,000 euros.

Beyond the current economic cycle, this situation is linked to France's longterm aging population. In order to cope with the costs of paying for retirement or home medical care, families are forced to sell their house, leaving no inheritance -- or even worse, debts.

When people renounce their inheritance, the succession is then said to be vacant. It's up to tax services to try and sell some of the estate's items to repay the creditors of the deceased, though it is typically not enough to cover the outstanding debt.

Read the entire original article in French by Catherine Rollot

Photo – John Althouse Cohen

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