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Overindebted inheritance?

Ausschnitt aus: Génot, François (2014): “Commonplace 7”, www.francoisgenot.com

When it comes to inheritance, the first thing you think about is that assets are available and that the heirs will take over money, securities, jewellery or real estate from the testator. The fact that the deceased can leave not only assets but also debts is suppressed. If someone needs care at the end of their life, it is quite possible that by the time of death all assets will have been used up or even debts accumulated.

There are two options in the case of inheritance: The heirs can either accept the inheritance or decline it. If they accept, they take over the entire assets, including all the testator’s debts. If they refuse, the heirs lose all claims to the assets, but are not liable for the testator’s debts either.

What should be done if it is not clear what will all be included in the estate or what value certain assets will have? Are there perhaps creditors who have not yet asserted their claims? How well does the testator’s company stand? In what condition are the properties and what are they worth? What debts exist?

The heirs can obtain a precise overview of the assets including the debts by means of the public inventory, which is drawn up by the competent authority and can be requested from it. In the course of the inventory, a so-called invoice call is published. With the invoice call, all creditors are requested to register their claims. Once the public inventory is available, each heir can decide whether to reject the inheritance, accept it or accept it “under public inventory”. If an heir accepts the inheritance under public inventory, claims which are not registered in the inventory can in principle no longer be asserted.

The public inventory costs several thousand francs. These costs are charged to the inheritance. If the inheritance is not sufficient to cover these costs, the heir (or heirs) who apply for the inheritance are liable with their private assets. For this reason, one should consider carefully whether the public inventory is really necessary. In certain cases, it is better to consult an expert for certain questions. Examples include property valuations, company and investment valuations or the enforceability of outstanding claims.

The public inventory must be requested within one month of knowledge of the death. Heirs have three months from knowledge of death to disclaim an inheritance. If this period expires, the inheritance is deemed to have been accepted. The deadline for disclaiming an inheritance may be extended.

A public inventory provides information about the estate and whether it is worth accepting the inheritance. A cautious approach is necessary.

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