How and when does one become an heir?
Last update: 10/1/2012
At the time of the opening of the succession (death of the deceased), the ownership of the succession (the deceased’s assets) devolves directly to the heir. A person with entitlement to the inheritance may renounce the succession by filing a declaration with the clerk of the court of the district where the deceased had his/her last place of residence.
In principle, the heir is liable for the deceased’s debts. However, heirs may limit their liability by accepting the estate without liability to debts beyond the assets descended. Joint heirs are liable for the debts of the succession, in proportion to the value of their respective portion of the inheritance.
When and how does one become an heir?
Pursuant to the general criteria for determining an heir’s status, heirs must:
- Exist legally at the time of the deceased’s death,
- Not have been debarred from the succession.
In accordance with special criteria, the procedure for the transfer of legacies must be respected for heirs other than the legal heirs and the laws of Luxembourg make a distinction in this regard depending on whether or not the deceased leaves heirs who cannot be disinherited.
Is it possible to renounce a succession?
When the deceased’s succession is opened, the heirs may decide to renounce their succession.
Heirs wishing to renounce their succession must do so expressly and formally, by filing a declaration with the clerk of the court of the district where the succession is opened; this declaration is entered in a special register kept for this purpose. Heirs who have renounced their succession may change their mind provided that the following two conditions are satisfied (art 790 of the CCL):
- The succession must not have been accepted by another heir in the meantime;
- The thirty-year time limit on the right of acceptance must not have expired.
If an heir renounces his/her succession, his/her share will pass to any other heirs.
Is it possible to accept a succession subject to conditions?
The Civil Code of Luxembourg allows heirs to adopt a three-fold attitude to a succession in which they are entitled to share:
- Purely and simply to accept it;
- To renounce it;
- To accept it without liability beyond the assets descended.
The Civil Code of Luxembourg grants heirs a period of 3 months and 40 days in which they may validly exercise this option, that is to say to decide with full knowledge of all aspects of the succession (art 793 to 810 of the CCL).
If no legal proceedings are instituted by the succession’s creditors, the heirs may still exercise their abovementioned option after this deadline has expired. The option lapses after 30 years (art 789 of the CCL) and if there are no provisions integrated in the Civil Code of Luxembourg, case-law considers that an heir who has not reached a decision within thirty years is deemed to have renounced the succession.
Are the heirs and co-heirs liable for the deceased’s debts?
A distinction must be made between the different situations applying to heirs:
- Heirs accepting purely and simply the succession (art 724 of the CCL). They may not limit their liability for the debts and costs of the succession to the amount of the assets they have inherited. They must pay these debts if necessary out of their personal assets.
- Heirs accepting without liability beyond the assets descended (art 802 of the CCL). The contribution of such heirs to the debts of the succession is limited to their portion of the succession. Irrespective of the amount of these debts, no claims can be made against the personal assets of such heirs.
- Heirs who renounce the succession (art 784 to 792 of the CCL). They are obviously exempted from paying the debts of the succession because they do not participate in either the assets or the liabilities of the succession.
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Successions in Luxembourg
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