Who inherits the debts in the inheritance?

Inheritance is often positively associated with us, because the vision of acquiring many valuable items appears before our eyes. Unfortunately, reality often makes you think about whether to accept the inheritance. It often happens that the deceased did not leave any valuable property at the time of opening the inheritance, but left inheritance debts in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code. However, there is no hopeless situation, and the heirs have rights that allow them to defend themselves against such debts, even if they inherited the inheritance. Many people ask themselves what to do if we inherit debts in inheritance and the amount of inheritance debts is significant.

What are debts of the deceased and inheritance debts?

The inheritance usually consists of assets and liabilities, which together make up the value of the inheritance. The heir will therefore inherit not only the assets, but also the debts of the testator. Suppose, therefore, that there is no active inheritance and the deceased left debts. So are there debts of the testator? What inheritance debts include, for example, unpaid loans, loans, so-called payday loans, utilities and other obligations of the deceased. The costs of the testator’s funeral, the costs of inheritance proceedings, as well as the execution of orders and records must not be forgotten. It is impossible to list all the liabilities of the deceased that may appear in the estate.

Acceptance of inheritance and rejection of inheritance – do we inherit debts?

Up to a certain point, the inheritance of debts (as a rule – from the moment of acceptance of the inheritance).

In addition (as a rule), within six months from the date of opening the inheritance, the heir may decide to accept or reject the inheritance by submitting a statement to the inheritance court or before a notary public, which determines, among others, whether the heir inherits the debts left after the testator’s death. This is the period during which the heir can get acquainted with the estate of the deceased and make the final decision whether to accept the inheritance. Rejection of the inheritance means no liability for inheritance debts.

What is the difference between accepting an inheritance with the benefit of inventory and inheriting debts?

For several years, there has been a rule in Polish law that if the heir does not make any decision within 6 months, then the heir’s inactivity means acceptance of the inheritance with the benefit of inventory. In the case of accepting the inheritance with the benefit of inventory (as opposed to accepting the inheritance directly), the heir’s liability is limited to the amount of the so-called active decline. This form of inheritance acquisition (after drawing up an inventory or inventory list) means that the heir is liable for inheritance debts up to the amount of the inherited property, and thus repays inheritance debts to a limited extent. More on adoption with the benefit of inventory and what happens in such a situation of accepting an inheritance in the next article.

What is the order of inheritance of debts?

If the testator left a debt, each heir is responsible for the inheritance debts, which results from the fact of inheritance. The order of succession is defined in the Civil Code, which also indicates who is the statutory heir. It is also worth pointing out that until the inheritance is divided, the heirs are jointly and severally liable for the inheritance debts. From the moment of division of the estate, the heirs are liable for the debts of the estate in proportion to the size of their shares.

When is the statute of limitations on inheritance debts?

As indicated above, from the moment of acceptance of the inheritance (the date of acceptance of the inheritance), the heir is liable for the debts of the deceased. However, it may turn out that despite the acquisition of inheritance debts included in the estate, the heir will be able to evade the obligation to pay part of the obligations due to the statute of limitations. This issue will be covered in more detail in the next article.


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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