Inheritance law

Inheritance with debts. How to verify if there are debts in the inheritance?

Acceptance or refusal of an inheritance

The acceptance of an inheritance does not always result in an increase in the heir’s estate. Sometimes the heir also inherits debts. The heir is liable for the debts with their own property from the moment the inheritance is accepted, so the decision to accept or reject the inheritance cannot be taken hastily. Our inheritance lawyers will help you take the first steps on this subject, present you with the various possible options and advise you on which one will best secure the estate and the interests of the heir.

Acceptance of the inheritance may take the form of a simple acceptance, in which case the heir’s liability for the debts is unlimited, or acceptance with the benefit of inventory, that is to say with liability for the debts limited to the value of the assets of the inheritance as determined in the inventory or the list of assets. An heir who has submitted the inventory shall pay the debts of the inheritance in accordance with the inventory. Where the value of the inherited debts is higher than the value of the assets in the estate, the heir who has accepted the inheritance with the benefit of inventory shall only be liable up to the amount of the inherited assets.

How to be relieved of inheritance debts?

Inheritance debts include not only debts which the testator incurred during his lifetime, but also the costs of the testator’s funeral, the costs of the inheritance proceedings, the remuneration of the executor of the will, the obligation to satisfy a claim for a reserved portion, the obligation to fulfil ordinary legacies and instructions and the costs of administering the inherited assets or an organised part of them.

If an heir wishes to ‘free themselves’ from the debts of the succession, they may decide to reject the succession. In such a case, the heir should, within six months from the date on which he/she becomes aware that he/she has been appointed to the succession, make a declaration that he/she rejects the succession. Such a declaration shall be made before a court or a public notary.

How to check whether there are debts in the inheritance?

Often, many heirs on appointment to the inheritance are not aware of the amount of assets included in the testator’s estate, as well as the amount of the inheritance debts, and therefore do not know what decision to make on accepting the inheritance. In the light of the current rules, if an heir does not make a declaration of acceptance or rejection of the inheritance within six months of becoming aware of the title of his appointment, he inherits with the benefit of the inventory.

In order to take a proper decision on this issue, it is worth considering the possibility of filing a request for an inventory. Such a request should be submitted to the court of inheritance or directly to the bailiff who would be competent to enforce the decision of the court of inheritance drawing up the inventory. The persons entitled to submit such an application are the heir, the person entitled to the reserved portion, the legatee, the executor of the will and the creditor who has written proof of the claim against the testator. Such an application submitted to a court is charged a fee of PLN 100, while one submitted directly to a bailiff is charged PLN 400.

What is the inventory?

The inventory contains information on the items belonging to the inheritance and the legacies, together with an indication of the value of each of these items, as well as information on the debts inherited, with an indication of the value of each of them. The value of the assets forming part of the estate and the value of the legacies is established according to the state and prices at the time of the opening of the estate, that is to say, of the testator’s death, and the amount of the debts under the estate according to the state at the time of the opening of the estate. Only one inventory may be drawn up in each case. The court of succession may, however, order a supplementary inventory if an item belonging to the inheritance, an object of a legacy or a succession debt not included in the inventory is disclosed.

Is an inventory different from a list of assets?

A inventory has to be distinguished from a list of assets to be drawn up by the heir, legatee or executor of the will. Such a list should be submitted either to the court of succession or to a notary who then forwards it to the court of succession. This list may be submitted by several heirs jointly. The list of assets should carefully disclose the items belonging to the inheritance and the legacies, specifying their value in accordance with the state and prices at the time of the opening of the inheritance, as well as the debts under the succession and their amount at the time of the opening of the inheritance. This is a good solution for people who have maintained a close relationship with the testator and have knowledge of both- the assets and liabilities of the testator. The heir who has submitted the list of assets shall pay the debts of the estate in accordance with the list, but may not plead ignorance of the list as drawn up by another heir, a legatee or an executor of the will.

All information regarding the issues described above can be clarified by our lawyers specializing in Polish inheritance law.

Author team leader DKP Legal Marta Oleśkowska
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