Can an inheritance be refused? Renouncing an estate in case of debts


Do you think that an inheritance cannot be refused? And yet, it is quite possible! Even more so if the deceased leaves you with large debts. Renouncing an inheritance is a right. However, you must explain your decision and make it known clearly. You should also know that if you renounce an inheritance, you renounce it in its entirety! Impossible to refuse one party but to accept the other! So how do you refuse an inheritance?

There may be reasons why people refuse to inherit. In fact, it is not always interesting to accept it. It can even lead directly to problems.

How does an estate work?

An estate or inheritance consists of all property owned by the person who died. This can include a house, apartment, land, furniture, stock stocks, and even savings accounts. However, if the deceased had debts, they are also part of the inheritance!

The heirs are expected to pay the debts of the deceased. They may have to pay with their own personal money, in the event that the assets of the estate are not sufficient to repay the amount owed.

Important: Each heir can pay the inheritance debts but only up to his share of the inheritance. Thus, an heir who will benefit from one-third of the estate will have to pay one-third of the debts of the estate.

It is possible for heirs to renounce the succession, in certain cases.

When to refuse an inheritance?

It may be wise to renounce an inheritance. Often, a refusal of succession is justified by the presence of liabilities, and therefore debts, the amount of which is greater than that of the assets (the assets transferred). The person renouncing an inheritance, therefore, does not have the status of an heir. As a result, it does not affect any property.

Namely: inheritance debts cannot be claimed from him either.

You have 10 years to make your decision and make it known. If you have not expressed your choice within this period, it will be considered that you renounce the succession. However, some events may force you to make a decision quickly. First of all, you must file the declaration of succession with the tax authorities within 6 months of the death.

Similarly, the creditors of the deceased (this can be banks, landlords for unpaid rent, or a condominium trustee for charges related to the co-ownership) can speed things up and therefore force an heir to accept or refuse an inheritance.

Important: according to the law, a period of 4 months after the succession must be respected to give the heirs time to make a decision.

According to Article 807 of the Civil Code, it is possible for an heir who has renounced the succession to withdraw and reverse his decision. However, in this case, no other heir must have accepted the succession. It must also be less than 10 years since the death.

There is also the possibility of renouncing the succession on behalf of one's minor children. This is the case if you think that the deceased's liabilities could harm your children. To do this, you must request a document allowing a minor child to be waived by the tribunal de grande instance. It will be necessary to indicate the patrimony of the deceased. The judge must, in fact, be sure that you are giving up your children for their good, because of debts, in particular.

The renunciation of the succession may also be registered by the notary who is in charge of the estate of the deceased.


Renouncing an estate differs from acceptance. Already, this cannot be tacit. The heir must clearly express his or her wish to renounce the succession. He must fill out an official form: Renunciation of succession by an adult.

The heir must then print the document and deposit or send it, by registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt, to the registry of the court of the place of the last domicile of the deceased.

Certain documents must also be attached to the mail, including a copy of the identity document of the person renouncing the estate and the death certificate of the deceased.

The heir then receives a receipt, in the form of a simple letter, which specifies that the renunciation of the succession is registered by the registry of the judicial court and appears in the Register of renunciations of succession. You must also attach a full copy of your birth certificate less than three months old.

To find the competent court, you can go to the website, in the tab "Access to justice" and "Find a court". By entering the postal code, you should be able to easily find the Judicial Court.

Why renounce an inheritance?

There are several reasons that can influence the decision to renounce an inheritance. These include:

a conflict with the parents that have led to a breakdown in contact for years;

the willingness not to pay the deceased's debts, if any. This is particularly valuable when liabilities exceed assets;

the decision to benefit his children. If you renounce your inheritance, your children will have priority, or your siblings if you do not have a legal heir.

Namely: if all the heirs renounce the succession when there are debts, it is quite common, then in this case, the creditors are never repaid. This is possible.

There is another solution than to renounce the succession. You can opt for acceptance up to the net assets. Thus, you remain heir and if the asset is positive, then you inherit it. If the estate is negative, however, you don't need to pay the debts.

This is a good alternative if you don't know what to expect with inheritance.

To consider this solution, however, you need to invest your time and money. You must make a declaration at the court office and pay a notary to make an inventory of the deceased's property.

The inventory is sent to creditors who can therefore use it to repay the debts. If after that, there is money left, then you can inherit it. If there is nothing left but the debts are not all repaid, you will not have to pay anything out of your own pocket.

Is it a good idea to refuse an inheritance?

There are cases where an heir will refuse his share of inheritance even though the assets are greater than the liabilities and thus he is a beneficiary. This may be in order to privilege his children. So he refuses inheritance out of generosity. This is entirely possible, according to Article 805 of the Civil Code.

This is not necessarily a good idea. It is possible that later on, the financial situation of the heir will deteriorate either because he is unemployed, or because he suffers from a disability or illness. As a result, the person may come to regret having renounced his or her inheritance.

In addition, from a tax point of view, renouncing an inheritance in favor of one's children is not necessarily a good plan. Children may be subject to the scale of direct succession, but they will not have an allowance each. They will therefore have to share the allowance to which their parent who renounces the succession would be entitled.

In this case, rather than renouncing the inheritance in favor of your children, it would be better to receive the inheritance and then agree to donations to the children. You will then be able to take advantage of the various allowances available, such as the allowance of 100,000 euros per child, authorized once every 15 years.

You should also know that refusing an inheritance does not prevent you from having to settle certain debts, especially those related to the maintenance obligation, as provided for in the Civil Code.

Important: A child who has renounced the estate of one of his parents must still pay the funeral expenses if the estate assets are not sufficient. He can also be asked to reimburse certain social benefits from which his parent benefited, such as ASH (social assistance for accommodation), allocated by the county council.