Liability for estate debts (Haftung für Nachlassverbindlichkeiten)

Upon the death of a person, his property passes in its entirety to the heir or heirs, § 1922 (1) BGB. While § 1922 (1) BGB only speaks of succession to the “property” of the decedent § 1967 (1) BGB makes it clear that the heir also is liable for the obligations of the estate. The obligations of the estate include, in addition to the debts of the deceased, the obligations borne by the heirs as such, in particular the obligations arising from rights to the forced share, legacies and testamentary burdens. See § 1967 BGB. Furthermore, the heir must also bear the funeral costs. See § 1968 BGB. The liability of the heir is not limited to the estate. Creditors may also enforce their Claims into the property the heir already had before he received the inheritance. In order to avoid personal liability for decedent's debts, the heir can disclaim the inheritance or apply for insolvency of the estate. Co-heirs are jointly liable for estate debts (§2058 BGB). Each co – heir is liable for the estate debt separately. Until the distribution of the estate, heirs may limit thier liablility to his or her share of the estate (§ 2059 BGB). After the distribution of the estate, each co-heir is liable for the part of the estate debt that corresponds to his share of the inheritance (see § 2060 BGB).

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