Inheritance is the process by which ownership of the assets of a deceased person is transferred to survivors. It’s up to the individual to decide who receives specific assets by naming persons or organizations as heirs or beneficiaries. When someone dies without making these preparations, a probate court must determine who are the heirs.
A last will and testament is one of the essential parts of succession planning and it is a document that every adult should implement. A Will serves to provide details for how to distribute the assets after death. If you die without a Will, the probate court will follow the laws regarding the distribution of the property, which may not be in accordance with your wishes.
Succession planning involves more than making a Will. It should also take into account lifetime gifts given to the family members, family businesses and shared business ownership. Arranging the Will is personal and the best process depends entirely on what you want to do with your estate. If your assets (especially real estate) are located in Poland, the Will should be made in Poland before the Polish notary public. You should take into account cross-border issues if you or your beneficiaries live abroad. You need a specialist advice to cover all points.
If there is no Will, the Polish statutory intestacy rules apply to your assets located in Poland. Under the Polish intestacy rules, the family of the deceased inherits in the following order:
- spouse and children (if the children outlive the testator); if the children do not outlive the testator, the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on (descendants),
- spouse and parents (where the deceased has no children),
- spouse, one of the parents and the siblings (if the siblings outlive the testator); if the siblings do not outlive the testator, the descendants of the siblings,
- grandparents (when there is no spouse, children, parents, siblings or descendants of siblings); if the grandparents do not live to see the inheritance, it will fall to their descendants (uncles and aunts of the deceased) and if one of them did not live to see the inheritance, then their children (cousins of the deceased),
- stepchildren (when there is no one among all of the above),
- municipality, the Treasury (where the deceased has not left any family members).
If any of the heirs refuse the inheritance, that heir will be treated as if he did not outlive the testator.
Under the Polish intestacy rules, the spouse and the children inherit in equal parts. However, the share for the spouse must not be smaller than one quarter of the entire estate. The share for a spouse who inherits along with the parents, siblings and descendants of the siblings of the decedent must amount to half of the estate.
If there are no descendants, the parents inherit along with the spouse. The parents' shares amount to one quarter of the entire estate. If there is no spouse of the decedent, the entire estate will fall to his parents in equal parts.
If a child of the decedent dies before the opening of the inheritance, the share in the estate which would fall to him will fall to his children in equal parts.
If one of the decedent's parents dies before the opening of the inheritance, the share in the estate which would fall to him will fall to the siblings of the decedent in equal parts.
If none of the above mentioned groups has come to inherit, the estate falls to the municipality of the last place of residence of the deceased. The municipality is therefore the legal heir. If the last residence of the deceased in Poland cannot be determined or was abroad, it will fall to the State Treasury as the statutory heir.
Whatever your circumstances, arranging the Will to deal with your estate for the future is the best solution.
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