by Piotr Kopec
How to conduct succession proceedings in Poland?
For the people who live abroad one of the frequently asked questions in scope of Polish law is the one related to regulation on succession in Poland, in particular, if it is possible to conduct succession proceedings in Poland without necessity to appear in person in court in Poland.
The Polish law generally provides for two possibilities to declare succession in Poland. A declaration of acceptance of succession or a declaration of waiver of succession may be made before a court in Poland but also before a public notary in Poland (so called an act of attestation of inheritance).
An act of attestation of inheritance before a public notary in Poland.
An act of attestation of inheritance made before a public notary in Poland has the same effect as the final judicial decision issued in succession proceedings. For sure it is the faster and more convenient solution than judicial proceeding. However we must remember that a necessary condition for issuing an act of attestation of inheritance by public notary in Poland is the presence of all persons who may be considered as heirs. In other words if we live abroad, we need to appear in Poland in person in order to make an act of attestation of inheritance before a public notary in Poland.
Moreover we must be remember that the act of attestation of inheritance before a public notary in Poland is an institution from which the heirs can only benefit in inconsistent situations. Conflicts between heirs, for example as to the validity of the testamentary testimony, exclude the possibility of a notary to issue an act of attestation of inheritance.
According to the Polish notary’s law, a public notary immediately issues an inheritance certificate to the Polish Register of Inheritance Attestation Records.
The application to issue a declaration of succession by court in Poland.
The second possibility to declare succession is a court proceeding.
It may be troublesome both to handle formalities related to succession from abroad as well as it is inconvenient to come to Poland only with the aim to handle those formalities. First of all it must said that there is no obligation to appear in person in Polish courts as everyone can appoint an attorney to represent its interests in Polish courts. There is no exception when it comes to succession proceedings. Such an attorney may file an application in our name, take part in the proceedings and receive judicial correspondence.
The district court of the last place of residence of the deceased in Poland is competent to hear such a case. The court fee charged for the application for the acquisition of the inheritance is PLN 50.
The application to issue a declaration of succession by court in Poland should contain: the death certificate, the birth certificate or the heirship of the heirs and all existing wills. All of these documents in Poland can be obtained in our name by attorney appointed to conduct the proceeding. We should indicate also the address the applicant and the addresses of other heirs, to enable the court to summon them to the hearing.
There is no time limit for completion of formalities related to the “settlement” of inheritance cases -attestation of inheritance by a public notary or in court proceeding. However it shall be noted that according to Polish Civil Code the declaration of acceptance or rejection of the inheritance shall be filed within six months from the day on which the heir learned about the title under which he was appointed to inherit. The lack of such a declaration by the heir within the six months shall be interpreted as the acceptance of inheritance with the benefit of inventory.
Abovementioned declarations may be submitted in several ways: in person, by attorney or in writing, however, we should remember to confirm our signature on such a statement in the Polish consulate if we do it from abroad.
The length of the succession proceedings in Poland depends on the complexity of the case. It may end at the first court hearing or in the event of a dispute it may last even up to a few years.
It must be underlined that according to Polish Law in the proceeding on the declaration of succession, the court does not deal with the analysis of components of the succession. In other words during the succession proceeding the court will also not “divide” the succession components between the heirs. Such a division of the succession components between the heirs occurs in other court proceeding that is known in Polish law as estate partition.