Liability on the debts of the deceased

If the inheritance is going to be ruled by Spanish law, it is important to take into account that the inheritor ( not the legatee) will succeed to all the assets and obligations of the deceased, will assume the responsibilities and obligations of the deceased, and will therefore be liable to pay any outstanding debts not only with the inherited assets but also with his or her own assets.

To inherit is not an obligation, so it is possible to reject the inheritance. If the inheritance is rejected by the first named inheritor, the substitute named by the testator in his or her will will be called. By such a rejection or due to incapacity or non-existence of this substitute, and if there is no right of accretion, the legal inheritors will be called.

It is also possible to accept the inheritance in a proceeding aimed to limit the liability for the deceased’s debts with the so named “ beneficio de inventario” and there are some specialities in the declaration concerning the acceptance or waiver, which are explained here in international succession.

Accepting or not is an important issue with special requirements if there are minors or disabled people involved in the inheritance.

If you are named as a legatee everything changes. The legatee is an acquirer, not a successor, so there is no obligation or liability for the deceased’s debts. These debts can mean the disappearance of the estate’s assets because creditors have preference over both inheritors and legatees, but the legatee isn’t personally responsible so his or her own assets are not at risk.

For this reason, it is not necessary to formally accept the legacy. The property of the deceased’s assets which were specifically bequeathed to the legatee will be transferred directly to the beneficiary, ministerio legis, upon the opening of the inheritance. Of course, the legatee can reject the bequeathed legacy, but formal acceptance is not necessary in order to acquire the property.

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