The acceptance or rejection of an inheritance represents a declaration of intent, which can then be challenged. Deadlines need to be borne in mind when it comes to declarations of rescission.
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: The acceptance or rejection of an inheritance can be challenged at a later date. Should this challenge in turn itself be contested, it is likewise necessary to observe deadlines. There was some debate about which deadlines apply for contesting claims in this context. The German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof (BGH)) held in its ruling of June 10, 2015 that the deadlines found in sec. 121 of the German Civil Code (BGB) are applicable and not those contained in sec. 1954 BGB. This means that the challenge must be made without undue delay. The deadline for contesting claims shall lapse no later than ten years after the declaration of intent has been made.
In the instant case, an heiress initially failed to meet the deadline for rejecting an inheritance. Since she said that she had not been aware of this deadline, she later timeously challenged the failure to meet the rejection deadline, stating that she did not wish to accept the inheritance because the estate was heavily indebted. Some 17 years later, she contested her renunciation declaration having since discovered that the estate was not in fact heavily indebted, yet this second declaration of rescission proved unsuccessful because it had not been made in due time. There were almost three weeks between the point in time at which she discovered that the estate was not heavily indebted and the declaration of rescission. However, the challenge needed to have been made promptly. Moreover, the BGH pointed out that the ten-year deadline had also already elapsed.
The case shows that assets and liabilities are not always detectable at first glance in the context of inheritance. Administration of an estate might thus be the most appropriate option rather than rejecting an inheritance, as the heirs are not then liable with their private assets for the testator’s debts. Instead, the liabilities are discharged using the assets available in the estate.
A precise overview is necessary in order to be able to appraise the assets and liabilities of an estate. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of succession law can be assistance here. They can examine whether repudiating an inheritance or administration of the estate is the most sensible option.
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