Margaret Ryznar at PrawfsBlawg:
…in France, there are almost no will contests brought on the grounds of a lack of capacity, fraud, or undue influence. In the United States, on the other hand, 3% and 5% of all wills executed will be contested, most commonly, on undue influence grounds. Why the difference?
Two elements of French law — mandatory shares for children and the role of specialized officers known as notaires who assist in document preparation — would be hard to duplicate here. Another institutional step that might reduce the incidence of costly probate struggles, however, would be to adopt (as three states have) what is known as antemortem probate, a right of testators to go to court during their lifetime seeking to have their testaments validated against challenge. “The proceeding allows judicial evaluation of the testator’s capacity, intent, and freedom from undue influence or fraud during the testator’s lifetime, which has the obvious benefit of the presence of the testator at the proceedings.”
It seems, however, that the antemortem probate procedure is seldom used in the American states where it is available. (Nor are official registries of wills, another aspect of the French system Ryznar describes as “easily adoptable” here and indeed in effect in some states.) Is the process going unused mostly because of unfamiliarity, or because persons whose estates will end up being contested on grounds of undue influence do not commonly recognize that? Or are there other reasons the procedure might be unpopular, such as an unwillingness to offend family members who are getting less than they might like?
Stewart Baker is running a year-end contest to name the most regrettable uses of privacy law over the past year. Among his nominations: the “Agriculture Department, which cited privacy grounds in refusing to name any of the beneficiaries of the notoriously fraud-ridden ‘Pigford‘ settlement”; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who imposed millions of dollars in fines on private health companies for lacking adequate technical controls on the privacy of health data, “even when there was no evidence that any data had been compromised,” at the same time as her own department was launching healthcare.gov, a data intake site with much more critical privacy and safety flaws; racing mogul Max Mosley, who prevailed on a French court to order Google to de-index scandal coverage of Mosley’s recreational indiscretions; and federal judge Lucy Koh, for finding Gmail’s business model potentially violative of wiretap laws. All the examples above were winners in their categories, save Mosley who trailed behind two others in the category “Worst Use of Privacy Law to Protect Power and Privilege.”
“French officials have fined a pub in Brittany €9,000 for “undeclared labour” after a customer returned some empty glasses to the bar. For customers at the Mamm-Kounifl concert-café in Locmiquélic, carrying drinks trays and used glasses back to the bar was a polite tradition.” [Independent]
“A law working its way through [the French] parliament would grant amnesty to workers who have ransacked their company’s offices or threatened their bosses during a labor dispute.” [USA Today via Jon Hyman]
The Mayor of Paris proposes banning vehicles made before 1997 [NYT via Amy Alkon]
I’ve expanded into a longer Cato post my item about how (according to the New York Times) incoming French president François Hollande demanded and got the dismissal of the editor of Le Figaro, the leading opposition (conservative) newspaper. If you think such things would never happen in this country, you might want to catch up on a couple of stories from Chicago and Boston. The post is here.
P.S. They’re still fighting in Washington over media cross-ownership rules.
Incoming Socialist president François Hollande demanded and received the dismissal of the editor of Le Figaro, the country’s top conservative newspaper, whose owners have military-contracting interests and must cultivate the goodwill of the state. [Scott Sayare, New York Times]
The French town of Angers might be 500 or so years too late, though. It asks a bit hopefully for the British crown jewels as compensation. [Lowering the Bar]
Travails of French employers under the Code du Travail — though it’s not as if America doesn’t have plenty of firms that follow the same strategy of keeping head counts below a certain regulatory-trigger threshold. [Business Week]