How to protect yourself from inheritance debts?

Inheritance is generally associated positively, because the heir expects to acquire money, valuables or other benefits in this way. However, the acquisition of an inheritance does not always mean that the heir obtains benefits. It often happens that the estate also includes the testator’s debts.

What are inheritance debts?

Inheritance debts include, in particular, the testator’s obligations that he did not perform during his lifetime. For example, it may be an outstanding loan or credit. The provisions of the Civil Code also include inheritance debts: – Costs of the testator’s funeral – Costs of inheritance proceedings – Satisfaction of claims for a legitim – Satisfaction of claims arising from ordinary legacies and testamentary orders. However, some liabilities of the testator are not part of the estate, so they are not inheritance debts. For example, one can point to a fine not paid by the testator, which expires at the time of the testator’s death.

What are ways to protect yourself from inheritance debts?

First of all, the heir, before accepting or rejecting the inheritance, should analyze whether the inheritance includes inheritance debts. Depending on whether the inheritance includes debts, the heir should use the following solutions. If the inheritance includes only inheritance debts, as this is often the case, the best solution is to submit a declaration of rejection of the inheritance. Such a statement should be submitted by the heir within 6 months from the date on which he learned about the appointment to inherit. A declaration of waiver of inheritance may be made before a notary public of the heir’s choice or before a competent court. If the inheritance consists of inheritance debts, but also includes financial benefits, e.g. money or movables or real estate, a good solution for the heir will be to submit a declaration of acceptance of the inheritance with the benefit of inventory. In such a situation, the heir is liable for the inheritance debts only up to the amount of the inheritance value indicated in the inventory or inheritance inventory. For example, if the value of inheritance debts is PLN 300,000 and the value of inheritance benefits is PLN 100,000, then submitting a declaration of acceptance of the inheritance with the benefit of inventory will make the heir liable for inheritance debts only up to PLN 100,000. It should be noted that in this case the heir is liable not with the items that make up the inheritance, but with all his personal property, with the proviso that this liability is limited to the above-mentioned value of PLN 100,000. Such a solution will not only allow for partial satisfaction of the inheritance creditor, but it will also allow the heir to keep the items he acquired by accepting the inheritance, if such an heir is particularly interested in preserving these items, even because of their sentimental value. However, if the value of inheritance benefits significantly exceeds the value of inheritance debts, the optimal solution for the heir is to accept the inheritance directly. The result of such acceptance is full liability for inheritance debts with all personal property of the heir. However, the heir should not be afraid of such liability due to the fact that the inheritance includes mostly benefits than inheritance debts, so that the heir will be able to easily repay these debts. This solution will make it possible to omit the procedure of drawing up the list or inventory of the inheritance, which would be necessary in the case of accepting the inheritance with the benefit of inventory.


Rafał Drzewiecki

Lawyer, Mediator

He specializes in providing legal assistance to natural persons. He attaches great importance to trying to resolve disputes amicably, including in criminal cases. He realizes his professional career in criminal law, because he served his legal training under the supervision of an attorney specializing in this field. He is particularly interested in post-penitentiary issues: the system of electronic supervision, breaks in serving the prison sentence, conditional early release.

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