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Accepting or waiving an inheritance: Why and how to refuse an inheritance

When an inheritance is opened, an heir has a choice between three inheritance options:

  • Accept the inheritance outright;
  • Accept the inheritance up to the net assets;
  • Waive the inheritance.

I) Outright acceptance

You receive your share of the inheritance but are liable for the debts to the extent of your rights in the inheritance.

If this debt turns out to be significant, you have the possibility of going to court to be totally or partially discharged. Thus, you will have to petition the court within 5 months from the day you became aware of this debt to be totally discharged.

To do so, you must meet the following 2 conditions:

  • You had legitimate reasons to ignore the existence of this debt at the time of acceptance of the inheritance.
  • The payment of this debt would be likely to seriously damage your estate.

II) Acceptance up to the net assets

Acceptance up to the net assets gives you the option of not paying debts that exceed the value of the deceased’s property. This means that you receive your share of the inheritance without having to pay debts that would exceed the value of the inheritance.

As a result, this option allows you to protect your personal assets.

III) Renunciation

When you inherit from someone but do not wish to receive that inheritance, you have the option of waiving it without giving any reason or justification. This is your choice.

The general desire is to avoid receiving the transmission of a debt-ridden estate.

The renunciation of the inheritance must be express. It takes the form of a formal unilateral act by which the heir renounces the inheritance. This act must then be filed with the judicial court of the place where the inheritance is opened. It is recorded in a register kept especially for this purpose. This formality must be complied with, otherwise it will not be enforceable.

In the case of an inheritance with a deficit, the renunciation allows you to escape the debts.

Consequently, you renounce your rights to the inheritance, but you are not required to pay the debts of the deceased.

By waiving you are considered as never having been an heir: you do not receive any property and you do not have to pay the debts of the deceased.

Regarding the renunciation procedure, you must fill out a declaration using a form that will be filed at the clerk’s office of the Judicial Court of the last domicile of the deceased or at the notary.

The clerk’s office will then enter the declaration in a special register and issue a receipt to the declarant or their notary. This receipt is proof that the 4-month time limit for refusing the inheritance has been respected. The notary can also collect the renunciation.

However, when the renunciation is made before a notary, the notary will take care of the filing formalities.

To do this, you will need certain documents to accompany your request for renunciation of inheritance:

  • A dated and signed form. Cerfa n° 15828*05 ;
  • A full copy of the death certificate of the deceased;
  • A full copy of your birth certificate dated less than 3 months ago;
  • A copy of both sides of your identity document;
  • A copy of the will if the person renouncing is an heir under a will.

As a renouncing heir you have the possibility to change your mind. In fact, you have 10 years to do so. If you change your mind, you can only accept the inheritance outright. This is only possible if the inheritance has not been accepted in the meantime by another heir or that, in the absence of other heirs or in view of their renunciation, the State has not been sent to take possession of the escheated inheritance.

Our lawyers are available to answer all your questions and to advise you. Our meetings can be held in person or by videoconference. You can make an appointment directly online at

AGN AVOCATS – Family Law Department

09 72 34 24 72

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