Accepting or refusing a succession
As a successor, you have six months from the opening of the succession (usually the date of death) to accept or refuse it.
However, the six-month period is extended by as many days as are necessary to give you 60 days after closure of the inventory to make your decision.
It is wise to wait for the notice of closure of inventory before making your decision, since it may reveal unknown property or unknown creditors. By waiting for the notice of closure, you will have a more accurate idea of the succession’s value.
You may consult a legal advisor for advice on whether or not you should accept or refuse a succession, and the consequences of your decision.
You may, if you wish, renounce a succession. You may do this, for example, if the deceased debts exceed the value of the succession’s assets.
If you decide to renounce a succession, you must do so by notarial act. If there is no notarial document stating that you have refused the succession, you are considered to have accepted. In rare cases, renunciation may be made by a judicial declaration in the course of legal proceedings.
Please consult a legal advisor if you would like to know more about how to renounce a succession.
You may accept the succession tacitly, for example by taking an action that presupposes your intention to accept, or expressly, by formally stating your desire to accept.
Examples of tacit acceptance
Certain actions or omissions also entail your acceptance of the succession, even you have not given your formal agreement. In these cases, the law states that you are considered to have accepted the succession. They include:
- using property in the succession as if it were your personal property;
- failing to renounce the succession within the prescribed time;
- exempting the liquidator from making an inventory of the deceased’s property.
On the other hand, certain actions taken with the agreement of all the successors do not automatically entail acceptance of the succession. They include:
distributing the deceased’s clothing, personal papers, medals, diplomas and family mementos;
selling perishable items, giving them to charity or dividing them among the successors;
selling property that is expensive to keep or likely to depreciate quickly.
If you accept a succession, you must pay its debts. Generally speaking, you are not required to pay the portion of the debt that exceeds of the value of the property you have inherited.
However, you may be held liable for debts exceeding the value of the property received if you have, for example:
- failed to make an inventory of the deceased’s property;
- mingled your own property with that of the deceased, unless the property was already mingled before death;
- decided not to follow the rules set by law when liquidating the succession.
Sureties and guarantees
Death also terminates any commitment the deceased may have made to provide a surety or guarantee for another person.
Even if you have previously accepted the succession, you are considered to have refused it if, acting in bad faith:
- you misappropriated or concealed property from the succession;
- you failed to notify the liquidator of the existence of certain property in the succession.