INHERITANCE

We provide legal representation in inheritance proceedings in Poland and abroad

At the very moment of death, the whole inheritance is automatically conveyed to the heirs designated in the will, or in case of legal sucession, to the legal heirs.
Both the rights and liabilities of the testator constitute the inheritance. The heirs acquire the inheritance regardless of their will or activity. Nevertheless, a legal procedure to confirm it is necessary.
The inheritance proceedings may be conducted in court or by notary public. The ascertainment of the acquisition of an inheritance or the succession certificate indicates who are the individual heirs and their shares in the estate. The division of inheritance, distribution of the specific elements of the inheritance between heirs is performed in a separate procedure. The regulations of succession have changed over the years.


 

The complete inheritance proceeding usually involves at least 2 stages::
  1. The ascertainment of the acquisition of an inheritance (who inherits and how much?)
  2. The division of inheritance between all the legal heirs  (who inherits what ?)
The problems that arise here most often concern the validity of the testament, rights to the legal portion, rejection of the inheritance, grounds for disinheritance, etc.

The rights and liabilities are conveyed to the heirs at the very moment of death. Polish law regulates the period during which one may reject the inheritance, inherit with the benefit of the inventory (the responsibility for the liabilities is limited), or claim the legal portion. Many families in Poland have unregulated inheritance status which may lead to the series of unfortunate consequences such as neglected estates, unclaimed  securities or bank deposits. It has been estimated that at least 10 billion PLN are still located in bank accounts that belong to deceased persons.

The issue also arises in older cases and is mostly related with difficulties in taking possession of the estate or with fair settlement of the expenditures made by the possessors and the benefits they took from the estate. It mainly regards the conflicts between previous possessors and legitimate heirs. Sometimes, heirs are compelled to resume the inheritance proceeding, for instance, when the local community was legally granted the inheritance in the abscence of any closer relatives of the testator. Another issue concerns acquisition of property by possession – that is, the acquisition of property by the entities who have administrated the estate for a long period of time (State Tresury or local community).

 

The heirs of the families that were deprived of their rights before 1989 may lay claims for the restitution of the lost rights/properties or compensation.

In some cases the probate procedure was not initiated at all since the testator had had no estates at the moment of his death.

Currently, the heirs of the families that were deprived of their property rights before 1989 may lay claims for the return or compensation for the illegally dispossessed estates, for instnce, in case of the descendants of the citizens of Warsaw deprived of their properties  by Bierut’s Decree in 1945.

Inheritance abroad

While living outside Poland you can still inherit estate in the country, and connversely, living in Poland you may become the heir of the relatives who live abroad.
The issue relates to the Polish emigrants who have been staying abroad since many years and those who have left the country recently. It has been estimated that there are around 20 million people of Polish origin living outside of Poland. A lack of contact with the other heirs is often a major obstacle on the way to conduct a successful inheritance proceeding.
LexPolonia offers professional assistance with your genealogy research. However, sometimes proceedings must be conducted in court to presume the testator’s death.

International inheritance proceedings

International inheritance proceeding involves issues such as: applicable law, validity of the last will made abroad, recognition of the foreign judgment or exclusivity of the jurisdiction of the country in which the inherited estate is located.


There are three typical cases:

 

 

1) double inheritance proceedings: one conducted abroad , and the separate one conducted in Poland

>> provided that the estate is located both: abroad and in Poland

2) the inheritance proceeding for the recognition of the foreign judgment in Poland

>> provided that there is no real estate located in Poland

3) certification of inheritance by notary public

>> provided that all legitimate heirs are present , the estate is located only in Poland and the testator was not a foreigner

Issues concerning inheritance for EU citizens

The majority of the issues concerning inheritance has been regulated in the Regulation 650/2012 (4 July 2012)of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
“The new Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession was published in the OJEU on 27 July 2012 and will apply on a general basis to the succession of persons who die on or after 17 August 2015”.

The regulations mentioned above are to be considered while making the last will in form of testament. The regulation is applicable to the inheritance cases open after 17th August 2015 which means that cases before this date are still to be considered in the light of the regulation of the respective countries.
The majority of the Polish emigrants in Europe are settled in:
Germany – around 2 million, France – around 1 million,  GB – around 700 000
Israel – 200 000
Ireland, Italy, Sweden – around 100 000
Austria, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway – over 50 000

Issues concerning inheritance outside of Europe

Groups of the Polish immigrants have been settling outside of Poland for many years. At present, many people of Polish descent learn about the property left in Poland by their ancestors but unfortunately the documents certifying their rights of property were often destroyed or are simply missing. The distance, the lack of required documents, a limited knowledge of the Polish language and the distance from the Communist government in Poland before 1989 are the main reasons why the inheritance proceedings in Poland have not been undertaken yet. Thus, the legitimate owners (the heirs living abroad) do not administrate the estate left in Poland. They do not realize that the property gained in value with Poland  joining the European Union in 2004. Historically, most of the Polish immigrants decided to move to Europe, North and South America, Australia or Israel. The majority of Polish immigrants is settled in:
North America: the USA – 9 million, Canada – 900 000
South America: Brazil – 1,8 million, Argentina – 450 000, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay – 10 000  each
Australia – 200 000,  South Africa – 35 000

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