When an inheritance is accepted, it is accepted with all the consequences. In other words, if the deceased person had debts, his heirs should take charge of them, not being able to eliminate them from the acceptance of the inherited estate. In fact, the existence of debts and debits is one of the reasons to end up rejecting the relevant inheritance, as well as the Inheritance Tax, among other reasons.
The law is very clear in this regard. The Civil Code indicates that “the acceptance and repudiation of the inheritance, once made, are irrevocable, and cannot be challenged.” If they bought us, then, to accept the inheritance with their assets and their debts, then we will not be able to back down.
But what happens if, once the provisions of the will are accepted, debts appear that had not been known until then? This is one of the great doubts surrounding the possibility of accepting or rejecting an inheritance. It is true that the Civil Code establishes, in the same article as the previous one, that there is the possibility of revoking the acceptance or rejection of an inheritance if “they suffer from some of the defects that annul the consent or an unknown will appears”.
Of course, now the question arises as to what is considered a vice capable of annulling the consent, while the reference to the unknown will is clear. A Supreme Court ruling from March 2021 clarifies the situation and what to do in the event that debts appear after accepting the inheritance.
A sentence of the supreme court to argue the nullity
To enter into context, the affected person who initiated the legal proceedings had accepted an inheritance according to the will. Subsequently, a document appeared in which the originator of the will, that is, the deceased person, recognized for the benefit of some nephews-in-law the right to collect a certain amount of money for the value of some farms.
This debt, contracted by the deceased and which had passed into the hands of her heir, did not appear in the records of last wills and was a private document, which generated a situation of total ignorance for the person affected by this case, who refuses to pay when the debt is claimed.
The Supreme Court understood that the affected party had accepted the inheritance, at the time, with limited information, since the debt contracted by the deceased was not obtained and he did not have any way to hear about it. The situation forced him to respond to the debt with his own assets. Thus, arguing that the heir had accepted the debt “due to an excusable, essential and decisive error”, the Court understood that this defect was sufficient reason to reject the acceptance of the inheritance.
Term to cancel the acceptance of an inheritance
If, for example, the existing debt could have been known, such as a mortgage, this argument would not have been valid. Thus, the Supreme Court gives a basis to justify in future similar cases to achieve the nullity or invalidity of the acceptance of the inheritance.
It is important to know that the term for the expiration of the action for annulment of the acceptance of an inheritance is 4 years and that the Supreme Court considers that the term begins to count from the time the sentence that determines the estate is issued.