Real estate inheritance in Poland - 10 essential steps to inherit property

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Last reviewed: 23.05.202

Real estate inheritance in Poland is not covered by one uniform regulation. The procedure which is described below is developed in practice and reflects requirements of various legal regulations  (Polish inheritance law, property law, tax law etc.). When a deceased person makes a will, information about who and what is inherited (so-called testamentary inheritance) must be included in the will.

However, when the will does not exist or is invalid, or if the beneficiaries do not wish or cannot become heirs, the circle of heirs is appointed by the rule of law (so-called statutory inheritance in Poland).

Step no. 1 - Search for inherited property in Poland
Property acquired recently by inheritance. What to do?

Step 1. Locate inherited assets – conduct a thorough property search in Poland

If you are not sure whether the testator left any assets in Poland you can make an inventory. An inventory is created to determine the deceased person’s inherited assets and their values. The inventory can be prepared in two ways. The first is at the request of the court, which issues an order to draw up an inventory. In addition, a request for an inventory can also be submitted directly to a bailiff. 

The second way to determine whether the testator left a property in Poland is to ask the Central Database of Land and Mortgage Registers about properties owned by the deceased. In order to receive an answer from the office, we must present documents proving that you have a legal interest in obtaining information about the real estate of the deceased.

Step no. 2 - Check prior inheritance proceedings and stay informed
Reporting requirements and proceedings with inheritance property

Step 2. Check prior inheritance proceedings and stay informed

If it is determined that the testator left the property in Poland, it is worth finding out whether other heirs or creditors in Poland have carried out proceedings confirming estate rights. Confirmation of inheritance can be carried out in two ways: either through a court order confirming the acquisition of an inheritance or through a notarial deed of inheritance certificate.

It is sometimes the case that family members avoid contacting or communicating any information about the inheritance or succession to the extended family.

Importantly, in Poland, heirs are not required to carry out proceedings to confirm inheritance rights. The confirmation of the inheritance can take place even many years after the testator’s death occurred. However, there is a quick and free way to determine if there has been a confirmation of a certain person’s inheritance. We can verify this in the online Inheritance Register, as long as we have data identifying the testator or his/her PESEL number.

The Inheritance Register maintained consists of 2 parts:

  • national part PL, which contains information on notarial certificates of inheritance issued after 01.03.2009, and court decisions of inheritance acquisition issued after 08.09.2016.
  • the European part of the EPS, which contains information on European certificates of inheritance issued in Poland after 08.09.2016.

The Register doesn’t contain the text of inheritance certificates, only information on where (in which institutions) such documents can be found. Having this information, however, we are able, after demonstrating a legal interest, to access the relevant document.

Both courts and notaries are obliged to promptly enter into the system information about issued confirmations of inheritance acquisition or certificates of inheritance. The system is therefore kept up-to-date.

If the testator died before the above-mentioned dates, you can contact the court in the place of last residence of the testator and verify whether the succession case was pending.

If it turns out that the declaration of inheritance was not confirmed, then you should consider initiating this procedure.

Step no. 3 - Discover the testator's will and verify last wishes
Inheritance residential property. What is the will of testator?

Step 3. Discover the testator’s will and verify last wishes

To determine whether the testator left a will, we can use a search of the Notary Register of Wills. In this Registry, we can find both handwritten wills and notarized wills, as long as the testator notified the notary’s office to register a will.

Data from the Notary Register of Wills can only be obtained by a notary. Even if the court needs such data, it requests the notary to verify the records. To obtain information on whether the deceased made a will, it is enough to go to any notary with the death certificate.

In a situation where the testator, before passing away, resided outside of Poland and made a will there. The will, as a rule, will be valid in Poland if it complies with the law of the place where the testator made the disposition or with the regulations of the country of his citizenship at the time of the will or death. Therefore, a will that was made in accordance with the applicable law will be valid in Poland if it meets the conditions provided by the regulations of another country.

An extension of the rules can be applied to wills that involve real estate. Such a will may also be drafted in accordance with the law of the place where the real estate is located.

Step no. 4 - Check if you can inherit real estate  in Poland without a permit
Assets acquired without permission? Is it possible?

Step 4. Check if you can inherit real estate in Poland without a permit

As a rule, foreigners not belonging to the circle of statutory heirs who have become owners of real estate in Poland as a result of testamentary inheritance must apply to the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration of Poland. This decision authorizes the acquisition of the property received on Polish territory.

The determination of the circle of statutory heirs is based on the testator’s native law. However, this obligation is waived in specific circumstances. It does not include, among others, the acquisition of an independent dwelling. Activities carried out by foreigners residing in Poland for a long period of time on the basis of a permit. Or who are married to a Polish citizen and residing in Poland for 2 years after the issuance of their proper residence permit.

In addition, citizens of countries belonging to the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation are exempt from this obligation. In their case, a permit is necessary only for the acquisition of agricultural and forestry properties.

Importantly, obtaining a permit is burdened by a 2-year time limit from the death of the testator. If a foreigner who has acquired inherited property on the basis of a will does not obtain a permit from the Minister on the basis of an application submitted within two years, then it will not acquire property in Poland. At that time the ownership of the property or the right of perpetual usufruct is acquired by persons who would be appointed to the inheritance by law.

You can also apply for a promise to grant a permit. It does not entitle you to acquire real estate, but if you apply for a permit within the period of validity of the promise and meet the conditions set forth in the promise. The Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration is obliged to issue you a permit. Exceptionally, the Minister will refuse to issue a permit if the facts relevant to the outcome of the case have changed. The promise is issued for 1 year and specifies what conditions you must meet to obtain a permit.

Initiate Inheritance Acquisition: Key Steps and Tax Considerations
Initiate inheritance acquisition – key steps and tax considerations

Step 5. Time for action – initiate inheritance acquisition confirmation proceedings

According to Polish inheritance legislation, the heir acquires the inheritance at the moment of the testator’s death. However, death alone does not transfer the ownership of the real estate to the heir. The acquisition of a Polish inheritance requires a court decision issued by the Polish Inheritance Court. The court determines who is entitled to inherit and their respective shares, especially if there is a will.

In order to initiate proceedings, there must be filed a motion, along with copies of the testator’s civil status records and death certificate. The motion is filed with the court of the testator’s last residence or, if unknown, where the estate is located. If neither of them can be determined, the court in Warsaw has jurisdiction.

After the proceedings, the court’s decision determines the heirs. Only when the decision becomes final do the heirs become the formal owners of the property. The court decision can be appealed.

As of March 1, 2009, Polish notaries can issue a certificate of inheritance based on an inheritance protocol, provided that all eligible heirs are present and there are no conflicts. The notary registers the certificate in the electronic register, which gives it the same effect as a court decision.

Polish inheritance documentation and costs
Polish inheritance documentation and costs

Step 6. Prepare documentation and estimate costs – plan ahead

In order to carry out the inheritance case, you will need the original will (if any), the death certificate of the testator, and civil status record showing the relationship of the heirs and the testator’s closest relatives. All civil status records must be submitted to the Court in the original. If they are missing, you can apply to any Civil Registry Office for copies of the civil status record.

The case for the declaration of inheritance is conducted in a non-trial procedure. In this kind of proceeding, the rule is that each participant bears the costs associated with his or her participation in the case.

However, in a situation where the participants of the proceeding have different interests in the outcome of the case or their interests conflict, the court may allocate the obligation to reimburse costs relatively or impose it on one of the participants in full.

As for the case for the confirmation of acquired inheritance, the associated costs are as follows:

  • Fixed fee on the application for confirmation of inheritance acquisition (after one person) – PLN 100,
  • Fee for entry in the inheritance register – PLN 5.

If no more than 6 months have passed since the death of the testator until the date of the hearing, a statement of acceptance or rejection of the inheritance is also submitted at the hearing. A fee of PLN 100 is charged for each person who submits this statement. It should also be remembered that each case, depending on the facts and the position of the parties, may also generate additional costs, such as the cost of expert opinions.

In a situation where there are several heirs in the case, the failure of the one who cannot reach the Court to appear will not, in practice, cause any negative consequences. But if there is only one heir, one should arrive at the hearing date set by the Court. However, it is often possible to receive the heir’s assurance from him in writing or at a remote hearing by video conference.

Understanding inheritance tax - key exemptions, rates, and tax amounts
Understanding inheritance tax – key exemptions, rates, and tax amounts

Step 7. Not only benefits but also obligations – everything about the Polish inheritance tax proceedings

The acquisition of an inheritance in Poland involves both benefits and obligations, including the need to report to a tax office. Inheritance tax applies to both testate and intestate succession, including forced shares.

Close family members (spouse, descendants, ascendants, stepchild, siblings, stepfather, stepmother) in the “zero tax group” qualify for total exemption from inheritance and gift tax if the property inherited is reported on time.

What is important the tax exemption applies if, at the time of acquisition, the heir was a Polish citizen or a citizen of one of the member states of the European Union or member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – parties to the agreement on the European Economic Area, or had a place of residence in the territory of the Republic of Poland or in the territory of such a state.

What are the tax free amount?

If the inheritance total value is below the tax free amounts, no tax is due. The inheritance tax allowance varies by inheritance tax group:

  • PLN 36,120 for the I tax group (spouse, descendants: children, grandchildren, ascendants: parents, grandparents, stepchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, siblings, stepfather, stepmother and parents-in-law),
  • PLN 27,090 for the II tax group (descendants of siblings: niece, nephew, siblings of parents: uncles, aunts, descendants, and spouses of stepchildren, spouses of siblings and siblings of spouses, spouses of siblings of spouses, spouses of other descendants),
  • PLN 18,060 for the tax group III (other persons, e.g., friends, strangers).

When does tax liability arise?

For people in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tax groups, an Polish inheritance tax is calculated by multiplying the value of the inheritance (after deducting the tax allowance) by certain inheritance tax rates.

In the case of an inheritance of a more significant value, a fixed fee, independent of the value of the inheritance, is added. The higher the value of an inheritance, the higher the percentage, but at the same time, the closer the relationship, the lower the inheritance tax rate.

In the case of succession between immediate family members, the application of tax exemption is conditional on the filing of form SD-Z2 with a tax office within 6 months of receiving the inheritance. In other cases, the heirs have one month after a tax obligation arises to submit form SD-Z3 for the purpose of tax calculation. After receiving the decision, the tax should be paid no later than after 14 days.

It should be kept in mind that a tax obligation arises from the moment when the court’s ascertainment of the acquisition of an inheritance becomes final and non-appealable. A notarial certificate of inheritance is registered by a notary and usually takes place within 1-6 months.

If you don’t pay inheritance tax on time a tax office becomes aware of it. An heir can expect that after the case is examined, they will be requested to pay the entire tax due, together with default interest.

It is worth to know, that if an heir belongs to a zero tax group, but fails to submit the appropriate form to a tax office within 6 months, they will be treated as a person from the 1st tax group, i.e. they will lose the tax exemption.

Step no. 8 - Update the real estate register - secure your ownership
How to update the real estate register to secure property rights?

Step 8. Update the real estate register – secure your ownership

The last part of the proceedings the heirs need to go through is making appropriate entries in the Land Registry of Poland. They must apply to the court for entering them into the real estate register as the new owners of the real estate.

A confirmation of the inheritance acquisition order needs to be attached to the application. A fixed payment of 150 PLN is collected for the application. If for the real estate subject to inheritance, the real estate register was not created, an application for its creation needs to be filed. The cost of the creation of the real estate register is 100 PLN.

Step no. 9 - How to sell my property?
How to sell residential property?

Step 9. How to sell my property?

Preparing to sell the inherited property

In a situation where an heir has acquired a property by inheritance, it will not always be profitable to keeping it for oneself, for example, due to the need for large expenses for general renovation. Sometimes it will turn out to be a more favorable option to sell the property. Preparing the sale process includes the following steps:

  • obtaining a gift and inheritance tax certificate from the tax office,
  • gathering the relevant documents regarding the property,
  • appraisal of the market value of the apartment, e.g. by a real estate broker or real estate expert
  • setting the conditions for the sale of the property, and then concluding a contract of sale in the form of a notarial deed,
  • paying the real estate sales tax (if any) and filing a tax return.

Inheritance issues when there are multiple heirs to a property

Importantly, when there are several heirs to the property, all of them must agree to sell it. In this situation, two scenarios are possible: the heirs can sell the property as co-owners, dividing the money received in proportion to their shares in the inheritance, or one of them can buy out the shares of the others, becoming the sole owner before the sale.

In order to sell a real estate or a cooperative ownership right to a property, for which the form of a notarial deed is required. It is necessary, first of all, to obtain a certificate from the head of the tax office. This will show that the inheritance tax has not occurred, has been paid, or has become time-barred.

In addition, if you want to sell a cooperative ownership right to a residential unit, which has an established land and mortgage register. It is necessary, first of all, to register the heirs in section II of the land and mortgage register.

The entire process of selling a property obtained from a testator is therefore similar to the process of selling an apartment bought on its own. All of these actions can be carried out by an attorney after granting the appropriate power of attorney.

Sale of property and real estate tax. How much you will have to pay?

Under Polish tax law, income from the sale of real estate is subject to tax if the sale takes place before the expiration of five years from the end of the calendar year in which the acquisition took place. The taxable income on the sale of real estate by an heir, when no more than five years have passed since the former owner acquired it, is as high as 19%.

Many taxpayers are still unaware of the change in the Polish tax system that occurred in 2019, which is in favor of heirs. This is because the period of 5 years, after which no income tax will be paid on the sale, is already calculated from the acquisition or construction of the property by the deceased. It is not from the acquisition of the inheritance by the heir.

Step no. 10 - What to do when there is some of Co-Ownership? Divide the inheritance effectively.
How to make an effective division of co-owned inheritance. Does market value matter?

Step 10. What to do when there is some of Co-Ownership? Divide the inheritance effectively

If you have inherited a share in the ownership of real estate with other people and want to recover its value or take sole ownership of the entire property, it may be necessary to carry out an inheritance division. This can be done at any time after the inheritance has been confirmed, but it is worth noting that it greatly facilitates the management of the property included in the inheritance. From the moment the division of the inheritance is carried out, it will be clear to whom how much is due and what property will fall to each person.

The division of the inheritance can be carried out in 2 ways. Either in the course of court proceedings for the division of the inheritance or in a more amicable way. In the form of an agreement on the division of the inheritance drawn up by a notary, which will be signed by all the heirs who jointly own the property.

As part of the division of the inheritance, you can transfer your share to the other heirs for an appropriate repayment. You may also take over their shares in the property by making a repayment to them in the amount of the value of their shares in the property.

In a court case for the division of the inheritance, you have to pay the following costs:

  • Fixed fee on the application for division of the inheritance – 500 PLN, and if the application for division is consensual – 300 PLN,
  • If the inheritance division involves the abolition of co-ownership, the fixed fee is PLN 1000 or PLN 600, respectively.

It should also be remembered that each case, depending on the facts and the position of the parties, may also generate additional costs, such as the cost of expert opinions.

The cost of dividing an inheritance in the form of an agreement drawn up by a notary public depends on many factors and is determined individually with the notary.

Save time and money by consulting with an attorney

Good preparation for the process of acquisition of real estate in Poland will save you time and money and protect you from any difficulties that you may face in the course of this procedure. At each stage of inheriting real estate in Poland, you may use the assistance and professional advice of a law firm and avoid travel to Poland.

Expert team leader DKP Legal Marta Oleśkowska
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