What happens to an inheritance until it is accepted or renounced?

As lawyers who are experts in international inheritances, we can tell you that although the Spanish Civil Code doesn’t establish a deadline to accept an inheritance, it is considered to be 30 years from the death of the testator. That is, none of its articles establish the amount of time a person has to decide whether or not to assume the “role” of an heir. In this regard, it is important to emphasize that the acceptance of an inheritance is an act by which a person expresses their willingness to succeed the deceased. Of course, in addition to acquiring the assets or income of the deceased, acceptance of an inheritance also entails acquiring their debts and obligations.

What is an unclaimed inheritance?

This is the status of the deceased’s estate from their death until acceptance of the inheritance by the heirs. From a tax perspective, the assets are attributable to the heirs during this time, as are capital gains and losses, except in cases where the inheritance has been renounced unconditionally, irrevocably and without compensation. Heirs will have to declare their proportional share of the income generated by the assets of the deceased’s estate on their IRPF self-assessment.

The taxes levied on inherited acquisitions are:

Inheritance tax: paid in the autonomous community of the residence of the deceased within 6 months of their death; it can be extended another six months, but interest is generated.


Municipal capital gains tax: also has a 6-month deadline, with the possibility of requesting an extension.


Ways to accept an inheritance

  1. Unconditional and irrevocable acceptance: produces unlimited effects and can be done expressly or tacitly.
  2. Acceptance with benefit of inventory: produces limited effects and the heirs are not responsible for the deceased’s debts and obligations in an unlimited manner, but only until they reach the value of the inherited assets


Ways to renounce an inheritance

Although an inheritance can be accepted expressly or tacitly, its renouncement requires an express and formal declaration. At ICN LEGAL, we remind you that the main effect of renouncement is renouncing the acquisition of any assets in the inheritance. As a result, the share of the inheritance that would correspond to the renouncer follows the order of succession determined by the testator or the law (intestate).

Of course, in the event that the renouncement causes harm, the heirs may ask the judge to authorize them to accept it on the renouncer’s behalf, and thereby see their credit saved to the extent of the hereditary share they were entitled to.

Despite the 30-year period to accept an inheritance, the law establishes that once 9 days have passed after the death, any person interested in the heir’s acceptance or renouncement (alternate heir, co-heir with the right to increase their share, creditor of the deceased or the heir) can ask the judge to urge the heir in question to make their decision within 30 days. If there is no response, the inheritance will be deemed to be accepted. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to contact our lawyers at ICN LEGAL, who are former judges.

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