Joint inheritance property - what does it mean?


Both one person and more than one person can be appointed to inherit. The final judgment on this matter always rests with the testator. The appearance of a large number of heirs can sometimes cause serious problems, as it then creates a joint estate of the estate. What is it and how can it be abolished?

What is included in the estate?

To begin with, the estate includes both the assets and liabilities of the deceased. Within this first category, we distinguish all valuable items, rights and sums of money. The second term refers to any unpaid liabilities of the testator, provided, however, that they can be inherited.

Regardless of what is included in the estate, the acquisition of it by at least two people results in joint ownership by the law itself. Such heirs simply become joint owners of the designated objects and rights, of course this also applies to the debts of the deceased, for which they are jointly responsible.

However, the so-called testamentary legatees, i.e. people who received something from the deceased as a result of an appropriate legacy - most often it concerns real estate or marked movable things such as jewelry, furniture or cars.

Commonality of inheritance property

Acquisition of inheritance property by several people can be compared to a situation in which a certain group of people decides to buy a shared apartment. In this case, they acquire property rights and obligations for which they are responsible. Each of such persons has a share that determines the right in the purchased item - similarly in the case of joint inheritance.

Pursuant to Art. 1035 of the Civil Code, if the inheritance falls to several heirs, the provisions on co-ownership in fractional parts shall apply mutatis mutandis to the joint property of the inheritance and to the division of the inheritance, subject to the provisions of this title. In practice, the above regulation means that each heir who decides to accept a certain inheritance must be marked with the share that he is entitled to in the estate. This share can be determined in two different ways:

  • by the testator himself - provided that he has left a valid will, in which he independently determined the amount of shares of individual heirs;

  • under the Act - if no wills have been left, all wills have been annulled, or if there is no indication of any inheritance shares in the will.

Commonality of the estate - benefits

In fact, the number of advantages of succession joint ownership is small, as is the case with extra-marital joint ownership. It is true that the costs of maintaining the inherited property are then distributed among all co-owners, but at the same time each of them has the right to use it.

Art. 1036 of the Civil Code clearly states that the heir may, with the consent of the other heirs, dispose of a share in the item belonging to the estate. If any of the other heirs do not agree, the regulation is ineffective insofar as it would infringe the heir's rights under the provisions on the division of the estate.

Commonality of inheritance property - disadvantages

There are more disadvantages than advantages to having joint assets. First, all relevant matters relating to inherited property must be brought together with other heirs. None of the co-owners can sell the entirety of the acquired property on their own, although they can do so with respect to the share they are entitled to (however, here the consent of all other heirs is required).

A significant drawback is also the liability for inheritance debts. Until the inheritance is distributed, i.e. the estate is actually divided among individuals, all heirs are jointly and severally liable for the acquired liabilities. In practice, this means that the creditor of the deceased may claim a debt towards all co-heirs at the same time, towards a few selected or only one of them. Of course, if only one of the heirs repays the debt, he is entitled to the so-called recourse claim - may request the return of the relevant part from other heirs who have not paid the debt.

In practice, it has been accepted that joint property, especially the inheritance, is very burdensome. It imposes a lot of restrictions on people who very often do not know each other or are in conflict. Not surprisingly, both the doctrine and jurisprudence postulate that this type of co-ownership should be abolished as soon as possible.

Inheritance department

The only way to eliminate the commonality of the estate is to divide the estate. It is an activity consisting in the distribution of inherited assets between all heirs in accordance with the amount of their shares.

Art. 1037 of the Civil Code:
The division of the estate may take place either by agreement between all the heirs or by a court decision at the request of any of the heirs.

If real estate is part of the estate, the division agreement should be concluded in the form of a notarial deed.

If the inheritance includes an enterprise, the agreement on division of the inheritance should be concluded in writing with signatures certified by a notary. However, if the enterprise includes real estate or the enterprise is subject to successive administration, the agreement for the division of the estate should be concluded in the form of a notarial deed.

The main effect of the division of the estate is the cessation of joint and several liability of co-heirs for the debts of the estate, which is characteristic of the phase from the opening of the estate to its division. The division of the inheritance changes the nature of the heirs' liability, as from now on they are liable for the inheritance debts in relation to the amount of shares specified in the decision on confirmation of inheritance acquisition. Pursuant to Art. 1034 § 2 of the Civil Code, from the moment of the division of the estate, the heirs are liable for the debts of the estate in relation to the size of the shares. The above means that "each of the heirs is severally liable for the part of the inheritance debts which results from the size of his inheritance share and in proportion to it". Each heir becomes an independent debtor of that part of the inheritance debts, which is reflected in his inheritance share (see judgment of SA in Białystok of 28 December 2016, file reference number III AUa 639/16).

Each of the heirs may request the division of the estate. In the event of a consensual approach to the matter, everything can be settled in front of the selected notary public - it is then necessary for all co-owners of the inheritance to appear and the unanimous will to distribute individual assets. If the agreement is not obtainable, division of the estate will be possible only before the district court, regardless of the value of the divided property - each of the heirs may submit an application, even against their will.

Joint inheritance property - will cease

Co-ownership of the inheritance ceases with the signing of a notarial agreement on the division of the estate or the decision dividing such property becomes final. From now on, each of the heirs has the item that has been assigned to him under the division - he no longer needs the consent of the other heirs to perform any action relating to his exclusive property.

However, it should be clearly stated here that after the division of the inheritance, the heirs are mutually obliged to provide the warranty for physical and legal defects in accordance with the provisions on the warranty on sale. The warranty as to inheritance claims also extends to the debtor's solvency. Therefore, if there has been a damage to an asset falling into the estate before the division is made, all the heirs of each other are responsible for this state.

Joint inheritance property - summary

The joint property of the inheritance is established when the inheritance is acquired by at least two heirs. We can talk about an acquisition when declarations of acceptance of the inheritance are submitted directly or with the benefit of inventory, or when 6 months have elapsed from the moment of learning about the appointment to the inheritance and no declaration has been submitted at that time.

The joint inheritance is a form of fractional joint ownership - each of the joint heirs has a certain share in the estate, which may be disposed of with the consent of the other persons. The joint operation lasts until the inheritance is divided, which may take place through the conclusion of an appropriate notarial agreement or pursuant to a decision of the competent district court. Until the distribution, each of the heirs is jointly and severally liable for any debts left by the deceased.