Inherit debts / inherit without knowledge: Who pays debts in the event of death?

Inherit debts – An inheritance does not primarily mean wealth and new possessions. An inheritance is often loaded with debts and means a lot of responsibility for the heirs. After death, the heirs take over not only the assets, but also the rights and obligations of the deceased. If this includes debts, the heirs are also liable for them with their private assets. If a case of inheritance occurs, the inheritance should be carefully examined and checked for debts.

Rejecting the inheritance – when debts are part of the estate

The inheritance can be disclaimed by any heir. This is particularly useful if debts or real estate in need of renovation are part of the estate. You can find out here which obligations must be complied with, how much it costs to disclaim an inheritance and how the liability of heirs can be limited.

The most important facts at a glance:

  • The correct form is decisive in order to make the disclaimer of the inheritance legally effective.
  • The content of the declaration must contain precise reasons for the renunciation of the inheritance
  • Heirs are not informed of their role as heirs by the probate court unless there is an estate, or they succeed to the estate as heirs
  • An over-indebted inheritance can lead to the financial ruin of the heir
  • Renovable real estate can be part of the inheritance and lower the value of it
  • The cost of eliminating an inheritance in the event of overindebtedness is very low
  • An inheritance can only ever be accepted or disclaimed in full.
  • Depending on the case, a subsequent disclaimer of the inheritance is possible
  • However, the disclaimer of the inheritance can also be challenged retrospectively.

The shape – this is what you need to pay attention to

To disclaim the inheritance requires some rules. Simply notifying the family or simply having no reaction to the inheritance is not enough. The form is very crucial. The heir must make a disclaimer to the probate court either in the form of a transcript or in a publicly notarized form. However, a simple letter is not sufficient. A personal appearance before the probate court is also possible. There, the heir explains his or her request and a judicial officer records it in writing. The local court in whose district the deceased had his or her last residence is responsible.

However, not only the form is very decisive for the success of the disclaimer, but also the content and the deadline of the declaration. This must have clearly listed why the inheritance does not want to be accepted. The reasons should be clearly listed. These may include, for example, that the estate consists mainly of debts.

Inheritance: Accept or reject? – Tips from a lawyer

The six-week deadline – do not lose track of time

The declaration is subject to a so-called six-week period. If the inheritance does not wish to be accepted, the relevant declaration must be submitted to the competent probate court within six weeks, otherwise the inheritance is deemed to have been accepted.

Generally speaking, the probate court does not have a duty to bring. The heirs are only notified of the inheritance if there is a will or if they succeed to the inheritance because, for example, someone else has already disclaimed the inheritance. In all other cases, the heirs are assumed to know whether or not they inherit anything from a deceased family member.

Limit liability of heirs – protect private assets

In addition to the waiver of inheritance, it is also possible to limit the liability of heirs and thus protect private assets from being swallowed up by the debts of the estate. This can be enforced by limiting the liability of the heirs in the context of an insolvency of the estate. The heirs are then only liable for the debts of the deceased with the inherited assets. The private assets thus remain untouched if the estate is not sufficient to repay the debts.

The costs – disclaiming inheritance in the event of overindebtedness

If the inheritance is overindebted, the costs are very low. The fees for disclaiming the inheritance are a flat rate of 30 euros at the probate court. If an inheritance that is not overindebted is rejected, the costs are incurred in accordance with the Court and Notary Costs Act. The higher the value of the estate, the more expensive the proceedings will be.

An inheritance can only ever be disclaimed in full. Accepting the assets and disclaiming the debts is therefore not possible. If an inheritance is disclaimed, the compulsory portion to which each heir is normally entitled by law is no longer due to that heir. If the estate is disclaimed by all possible heirs, it becomes the property of the state. The latter uses the assets (if any) to pay off part of the debts. The creditors of the remaining debts are left empty-handed in such a case.

Contestation of the disclaimer – only possible in certain cases

If it subsequently transpires that securities or real estate belong to the estate of which you had no knowledge at the time of the disclaimer, a challenge is very much possible. The contestation must be declared in writing to the probate court within six weeks after the error has been recognised and must state the reasons for the contestation. However, if the inheritance was disclaimed due to over-indebtedness and it subsequently transpires that the estate does not contain as many debts as was assumed at the outset, the disclaimer cannot be contested.

Rejecting the inheritance after the event – contesting the acceptance of the inheritance

Once an inheritance has been accepted or the deadline has passed, there is usually no turning back. However, once again exceptions confirm the rule. In certain cases, it is possible to withdraw from the inheritance after the fact. If, for example, it comes to light after the acceptance of the inheritance that the estate contains a large loan from the deceased, of which you were unaware until then, the acceptance of the inheritance can be contested. However, as a prerequisite, you must have had full knowledge of the assets and debts of the estate. However, if the heir wants to contest the acceptances because the six-week period was not known or it was not clear when it starts, this is also possible with a good lawyer.

Read more about disclaiming an inheritance!

The most important questions about inheriting debts

Debts in the estate are often a shock and a new situation for the heirs. Many questions arise and remain unanswered. The experts at Lukinski therefore answer all questions on the subject of inheriting debts and disclaiming the inheritance so that you are accurately informed.

What happens to debts after death?

Upon the death of the testator, all property passes to the heirs. This includes assets as well as debts. The debts are therefore part of the inheritance.

Can you disclaim an inheritance if you have debts?

If debts are part of the estate, the heir must also be liable for them with his private assets. If the heir is himself indebted, he can disclaim the indebted inheritance within six weeks and thus does not have to be liable for the estate.

How long does it take to disclaim an inheritance?

The deadline for disclaiming the inheritance is six weeks after the heir has become aware of the inheritance. The processing of the disclaimer does not take long at the court.

What does it cost to disclaim an inheritance?

If an inheritance is overindebted, the inheritance disclaimer costs a flat rate of 30 euros. If the inheritance is disclaimed even though no debts are part of the inheritance, the amount varies depending on the amount of the estate.

Will I be notified when I inherit?

If no will has been drawn up and you inherit according to intestate succession, you will only be notified if you succeed to the inheritance. However, if you are the first-order heir, i.e. the child or spouse of the deceased, you will not be notified of the inheritance.