22.02.2024 Civil Code

Changes to inheritance law in 2023

In 2023, two amendments to the Civil Code concerning inheritance law came into force. The first batch of changes resulted from the introduction of a new legal form – a family foundation. The second aimed at simplifying and clarifying the existing rules so that they better respond to the changing legal realities and growing social needs.

Amendments to the Civil Code effective from 22 May 2023

Those changes result from the entry into force of the regulations on family foundation. The amendment to the Civil Code made testamentary succession possible for family foundations. The new regulations provide for the ability to inherit a family foundation established by the testator under the will if it is entered in the register of foundations within two years from the date of announcing the will.

The regulations on the legitim have also been changed. Calculation of the legitim will now require adding to the estate the property contributed by the testator to the family foundation in the form of a founding capital, as well as the property resulting from dissolution of the family foundation. In addition, the person entitled to the legitim will have to include in the legitim the benefits or the property acquired from the family foundation established by the testator. Other changes to the legitim that came into force along with the regulations on the family foundation include the extension of the group of entities responsible to pay the legitim (among others, a family foundation and a person who acquired property in connection with dissolution of a family foundation), and the possibility of spreading the legitim into installments, reducing it or deferring payment.

The new regulations are unclear and further complicate the already complex rules for calculating the legitim.

The new rules also changed the rules on renouncement of inheritance. Until now, the future successor could enter into an agreement under which he renounced the inheritance from the person with whom he signed the agreement (this applied to intestate succession). In such a case, the successor was excluded from intestate succession and was not entitled to the legitim.

Now, under the new regulations, an agreement on the renouncement of inheritance may include the waiver of the right to the legitim in whole or in part. The new provisions of the Civil Code also explicitly allow to renounce the inheritance for the benefit of another person, in which case the renouncement will be effective only if the person to whom it was made effectively inherits.

Amendments to the Civil Code effective from 15 November 2023

The amendment to the Civil Code introduced two new categories of circumstances extending the list of persons unworthy of inheritance, which allow the court to find an heir unworthy. To declare an heir unworthy is to deprive such a person of all benefits from the testator’s estate. According to the new regulations, an heir may also be considered unworthy if:

  • persistently failed to fulfil the maintenance obligation towards the testator determined in a court judgment, settlement concluded before a court or other authority, or another agreement;
  • persistently evaded the duty of care over the testator, in particular the duty resulting from parental authority, care, acting as a foster parent, the marital duty of mutual assistance or the duty of mutual respect and support between the parent and the child.

Another area of changes concerns the circle of intestate successors, which has been heavily limited. Before the amendment, when the testator had no heirs from immediate family, i.e. children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, siblings or descendants of siblings, the testator’s grandparents and all their descendants, i.e. children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all sisters and cousins could be appointed to inherit the estate. After 15 November 2023, only grandparents, grandparents’ children and their children can be appointed to inherit the estate. So the most distant relatives who can inherit are now the testator’s cousins, while all successive descendants of the testator’s grandparents, who often do not maintain any contact with the testator or his family, will be excluded from inheritance.

A key change is the simplification of the procedure for parents to reject inheritance on behalf of their children. Until now, parents had to obtain permission from the guardianship court before filing a declaration of rejection of inheritance on behalf of a child. From 15 November 2023, it is sufficient for a parent to make a declaration before a notary or in court, without prior permission from the guardianship court. This will be possible if the child has been appointed to inherit as a result of the previous rejection of the inheritance by their parent, and the other parent consents to this action, and all other children (adults and minors) reject the inheritance. Therefore, the declaration of rejection will have to be submitted jointly on behalf of minors, and adult children should do it beforehand.

The changes described above also apply to the successions opened before 15 November 2023, but only if a six-month time limit for filing a declaration of rejection of the inheritance has not yet expired.

However, if a child inherits in the first place, the court’s consent will still be required. The court’s consent will also be necessary if the other parent with parental authority does not agree to reject the inheritance.

After the amendment enters into force, in order for the intestate successor to comply with a six-month statutory time limit for the court to receive a declaration of acceptance or rejection of inheritance, it will be sufficient to submit an application to the court within this time limit. If the filing of a declaration of acceptance or rejection of inheritance requires the permission of the court, the time limit for filing the declaration is suspended for the duration of the court proceedings in this matter, which previously did not result directly from the law but from the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court.

The amended inheritance law should make it easier to deal with certain matters of succession. In particular, the regulations allowing parents to reject inheritance on behalf of their child without the need to obtain the consent of the guardianship court should be assessed positively. On the other hand, the limitation of the circle of successors may be debatable, because in the case of people who do not have children or siblings, it may lead to the acquisition of property by the municipality, bypassing the extended family with whom the testator may have lived in close relations. In such a situation, the only way out will be to make a will.

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