What Happens If You Neither Accept nor Renounce an Inheritance?
What should you do if the heir does not accept or renounce the inheritance? How is the silence of the potential heir interpreted?
By law, the acceptance of an inheritance must occur within 10 years. After this period, the right to inheritance acceptance becomes time-barred. However, there are no set time limits for renunciation. This often raises the question of what happens if one neither accepts nor renounces an inheritance. How is the silence of the potential heir, also known as the “called heir,” interpreted? In the absence of an explicit declaration of intent, can the potential heir be considered a rightful heir, akin to a form of “tacit consent” or will they forfeit all rights to the deceased’s estate?
What Happens if You Don’t Accept and Don’t Renounce the Inheritance?
Silence that lasts for more than 10 years from the date of the succession’s opening—i.e., the date of the deceased’s passing—results in the forfeiture of the right to accept. Thus, this behavior amounts to renunciation of the inheritance.
For this very reason, the legislator has not set a specific time limit for renunciation, aligning it with the acceptance deadline.
Therefore, renunciation of the inheritance can be done in two ways:
Expressly, with a clear declaration made to a notary or the court clerk at the deceased’s residence.
Implicitly, without any manifestation of intent.
When Silence Constitutes Acceptance of the Inheritance
However, one common mistake must be avoided: mere silence is not enough to assume renunciation of the inheritance. It’s also crucial to refrain from engaging in any acts that imply tacit acceptance of the inheritance, such as:
Shortening the Deadlines
Ten years is a long time to determine whether a person accepts or renounces an inheritance. There may be interested parties who want a quicker response (consider other heirs who would see their shares increase upon one heir’s renunciation or a creditor waiting to seize assets acquired through the inheritance).
The law provides a solution for this: anyone with an interest in shortening the ten-year deadline for acceptance or renunciation can turn to the court and request a shorter deadline, less than 10 years, for the called heir to declare whether they accept or renounce the inheritance. After this requested time frame elapses without a response, the called heir loses the right to accept and is considered to have renounced it.
This legal remedy, called “actio interrogatoria,” allows interested parties to overcome the detrimental effects of a prolonged state of uncertainty.”
VGS Lawyers is an Italian law firm specialised in Inheritance. Please send your enquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org