How to renounce an inheritance?

How to renounce an inheritance?
Published on: 3 June 2024

Table of contents

When a person dies, an inheritance is opened, understood as the transfer of all the rights and obligations of the deceased to the heirs. However, it is not uncommon for the heirs to have no interest in the inheritance, as can happen in some cases when the inheritance contains much more debt than benefits, but you should be aware that you will not be able to reverse the inheritance. It is therefore very important to consult a family lawyer for advice and counsel.

The Civil Code states that heirs may voluntarily and for any reason refuse to accept the inheritance. However, the renunciation of an inheritance cannot be partial, temporary or conditional.

Our inheritance lawyers know that the most important aspects of accepting or renouncing an inheritance are sometimes not known and can lead to confusions that are impossible to solve, so it is advisable to be well informed on this point. 

To understand what it means to renounce an inheritance, you should know that there are two ways to accept it.

How to renounce an inheritance

The waiver of inheritance rights must be made in writing before a notary or through the courts and costs between 50 and 60 euros.

There are two types of waiver:

  1. Pure renunciation: An heir renounces the inheritance without a will, not for the benefit of anyone, but passes it directly to the substitute specified in the will.
  2. Exempting someone: An heir can assign the estate to another heir. In this case, two taxes must be paid: inheritance tax and gift tax.

The documents that we will need to renounce an inheritance by notarised deed are:

  • DNI of the person refusing to inherit.
  • A will or deed announcing heirs who did not have a will.
  • Death certificate
  • Certificate of testament

What are the reasons why an heir renounces an inheritance?

One of the reasons many people disclaim inheritance is because the deceased has more debts than assets. If the value of their debts is greater than the value of their property, we can consider a waiver to prevent their debts passing into our name.

Another reason why the heir does not want to accept the inheritance is because he/she will have to pay the inheritance tax at the Ministry of Finance of the Autonomous Community where the deceased resides in order to be able to access the inheritance.

This tax depends on each Autonomous Community and in some communities, for example in Andalusia, it can be extremely expensive, especially when the inheritance is not passed on in a straight line.

For minors, judicial approval is required: initially on the basis that the inheritance would benefit them, so judicial approval is required for refusal. It will be necessary to explain the reason for the disclaimer to the judge, and he or she will have to sanction it.

The last reason why an heir would not want to accept an inheritance could be because the heir is in debt and creditors could seize these assets to collect the debt. Thus, some people give up their parents' inheritance to avoid future foreclosures.

It is important to know that once you renounce your inheritance, you lose this right forever.

Time limits for renouncing an inheritance

Our Civil Code does not establish an execution date for a waiver of inheritance rights. However, since the failure to renounce an inheritance would paralyse the assets and obligations of the deceased, Art. 1004 and 1005 of the Civil Code guarantee the right of the heirs to sue. Provided that the claim is not time-limited, the time limit is 30 years.

However, there are heirs who do not renounce the inheritance but do not accept it either, therefore, the law provides for the possibility to file a lawsuit to give the heirs time to decide whether or not to accept the inheritance. This will allow the remaining heirs to distribute and collect their assets and money.

Can an inheritance be renounced after it has been accepted?

Once accepted, it is irrevocable, so that the inherited property that has been accepted cannot be transferred at a later date, but can be assigned in part or sold to one of the heirs.

In order to solve the problems that arise when receiving an inheritance, the right of the heir to be liable only for the obligations of the testator is used to the extent of the property that is inherited.

Therefore, if the intention to reject is clear, it is best to do so as soon as possible to avoid any discardable behaviour that could be seen as a tacit acceptance of the inheritance.

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