The idea behind the Benefit of Inventory is to draw up a list of all the property that the heirs are bound to receive. In this way, the heirs may avoid having to make good for the deceased’s dues from their own pockets. If inheriting with the benefit of inventory the heirs are only liable for the debts of the inheritance up to the value of the estate they succeed.
This means that if the estate is valued to cost €100,000 and the estate is burdened with a debt of €120,000, the heir will only be liable to pay the creditors €100,000.
The heirs may also opt to require that an inventory is drawn up and are given a chance to examine the inventory before declaring whether the inheritance will be accepted or not.
An heir who has made an inventory may free himself from the debts of the estate by giving up his share of the inheritance to the creditors, the legatees or to the co-heirs who do not wish to give up their share of the property.
Another advantage of the benefit of inventory is that the personal property of the heir will become not intermixed with the property of the inheritance and that the heir shall retain a right to enforce the payment of his own claim against the inheritance.
Declaring the Benefit of Inventory
In order to avail himself of the benefit of inventory an heir must make a declaration that he does not intend to assume the status of heir except under the benefit of inventory in the registry of the court of voluntary jurisdiction.
This declaration needs to be preceded or followed by an inventory of the property of the inheritance in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure.
Where more than one heir are willing to accept an inheritance, the benefit of inventory may be requested by any of the heirs and such shall be drawn up even if all others co-heirs do not wish that the inventory is drawn up. It is therefore sufficient that the declaration is made by only one heir. The declaration of the benefit of inventory may only be availed of by those who make the declaration.
The heir who has actual possession of the property is bound to make an inventory within three months from the day of the opening of the succession or from the day on which he knew that the inheritance devolved upon him. Where the heir has not within three months commenced the inventory or not completed it within this time, or within time frames allowed to him, shall be deemed to have accepted the inheritance without the benefit.
If the inventory is completed and the heir has not yet declared whether he shall be accepting the inheritance or not, he shall be allowed forty days, from the completion of inventory to deliberate whether he would accept or renounce to the inheritance. If no declaration is filed within forty days, it is assumed that he shall have accepted the inheritance under the benefit of inventory.
Minors shall not forfeit the benefit of inventory except after one year from the day they attained majority. Those who are interdicted will likewise enjoy the benefit of inventory until the interdiction is ceased.
While the inventory is being compiled and during the time of deliberation, the person entitled to succeed is not bound to assume the status of heir. Such person shall be the curator of the inheritance. Property that cannot be preserved may be sold after obtain permission from court.
If an heir fraudulently omits property that belongs to the inheritance, when drawing up the inventory, that heir shall forfeit the benefit of inventory.