Most people think of “estate”, i.e. what the deceased left behind, as primarily assets. That is, the values and things the deceased owned during their lifetime. However, it should be noted that the estate consists of all the assets and liabilities that the testator left after their death, i.e. not only assets, but also all the debts of the testator. If the liabilities exceed the assets, there is a risk that the estate will negatively affect the heirs’ property. Fortunately, the Civil Code offers multiple tools to prevent this.

In particular, the heir is entitled to exercise the “benefit of inventory”, thereby taking precautions in case the testator’s debts exceed the heir’s assets. Exercising the benefit of inventory is strongly recommended because only then the heir can be certain that they will pay the estate debts only to the amount of the inherited assets, in other words, it is thus a “zero-sum game”.  If it is clear from the beginning that the debts exceed the testator’s assets, we recommend refusing the inheritance in such a case. Please note, however, that inheritance can only be refused within one month of the date on which the court notified the heir of their right to refuse the inheritance and of the consequences thereof. Upon expiry of this period, the right to refuse the inheritance lapses.

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Inheritance titles

The Civil Code stipulates several methods of inheritance (i.e. “inheritance titles”). Currently, one can inherit under three titles of inheritance:

  • Inheritance agreement
  • Testament
  • Law (according to the statutory classes of heirs, see below)

However, all these titles can apply simultaneously. This happens in situations where the testament does not deal with all of the testator’s assets, but only part of them. In such a case, the assets not covered by the testament are subject to the law. In terms of the mutual competition of inheritance titles, the heir who inherits under an inheritance agreement has the strongest position and therefore inherits before the testamentary and statutory heir. The second strongest title is then the testament. This is because the Civil Code prefers an autonomous expression of will to statutory (merely subsidiary) rules. The testator may basically conclude an inheritance agreement or make a testament at his discretion, but he must not omit the forced heir, i.e. his descendants, and their compulsory share provided by law. The share amounts to ¾ of the estate in the case of children under 18 and ¼ of the estate in the case of children over 18. However, the testator may disinherit the forced heirs, but only for legal reasons. It should also be noted that individual inheritance titles can be combined. In some cases, combinations are unavoidable, especially in the case of an inheritance agreement, which can be concluded for a maximum of ¾ of the estate (a quarter must remain free and the testator may make a testament regarding the remaining estate).

Statutory line of descent and classes of heirs

If the testator does not enter into an inheritance agreement with one of the heirs or does not make a testament, the statutory line of descent becomes applicable. The law distinguishes six different groups of heirs and classifies them according to their entitlement to inheritance. In the event that no one from a lower group inherits, it is gradually proceeded to higher inheritance groups until the entire estate is exhausted. For example, if there are no heirs from the first class of heirs, the inheritance passes to the heirs from the second class, and so on. If there is no one to inherit from the testator, the estate devolves to the state as an “escheat”.

Classes of heirs

Who and how much?

First class of heirs

The testator’s children and spouse, equally

Second class of heirs

The testator’s spouse (always at least ½ of the estate), the testator’s parents and persons who lived in a common household with the testator, equally

Third class of heirs

the testator’s siblings and persons who lived in a common household with the testator, equally

Fourth class of heirs

the testator’s grandparents, equally

Fifth class of heirs

the grandparents of the testator’s parents, equally

Sixth class of heirs

the children of the testator’s siblings’ children and the children of the testator’s grandparents, equally


In the case of the first, third and sixth class of heirs, the principle of representation applies. This means that if none of the testator’s children, siblings or the testator’s grandparents’ children inherits, their children inherit. In the case of the first class, the representation is unlimited (i.e. if the preceding heir’s children do not inherit, the children of these children inherit, etc.); in the case of the third and sixth class, on the other hand, the representation is limited, which means that the law designates a specific group of persons who can succeed the “preceding heir” (e.g. only the children of siblings, not further). This means that the share of the testator’s child can thus pass to, for example, the testator’s grandchildren or the testator’s great-grandchildren.


Inheritance proceedings

The testator’s heirs do not acquire the inheritance automatically. The estate is settled in inheritance proceedings. The court competent to hear the estate usually initiates inheritance proceedings by a resolution of its own motion on the basis of the death certificate received from the register of births, deaths and marriages. The competent court is usually the court in the district of which was the testator’s place of residence at the time of death. The notary authorised by the court, who acts as a judicial commissioner, is usually the first to contract the (known) heirs, i.e. most often the children, spouse or person who arranged a funeral for the deceased (i.e. testator), and inform them of what will need to be done in the inheritance proceedings (he carries out a preliminary investigation). The judicial commissioner then performs further acts in the inheritance proceedings, in particular, he ascertains the testator’s financial situation, the circle of (other) heirs or, if applicable, establishes whether an executor of the will or an administrator of the property has been appointed; he also carries out a screening of, for example, the land register and the central register or verifies whether there is a registered disposition of property upon death (testament, inheritance agreement, etc.) or a contract on the modification of the community property of spouses.

The notary then orders a closed hearing and summons the heirs, executors and other parties identified so far. Before issuing a decision to award the inheritance to a particular heir, he must ensure that the testator’s requirements have been met, especially the testator’s legacies and orders. If the testator specified in a testament how the estate is to be distributed, the testator’s testament must be respected and the estate must be distributed in the manner thus described. The court will award the inheritance to the heir(s) who has not expressly rejected it and who has the best inheritance right according to the inheritance proceedings.

Inheritance proceedings may give rise to inheritance disputes, which, unlike inheritance proceedings, are adversary proceedings in nature. The judicial commissioner may refer to these proceedings, for example, a testamentary heir against an heir under an inheritance agreement, a statutory heir against a testamentary heir, etc. (i.e. always the one whose inheritance appears weaker). Inheritance disputes may also concern, for example, challenging the authenticity of a deed or disinheritance.

Our law firm represents its clients in inheritance proceedings as well, especially in inheritance disputes, in which parties must bear the burden of allegation and the burden of proof. If you need help, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to provide you with the necessary legal assistance.

What issues do we typically handle for clients in relation to inheritance?

  • How to draw up an inheritance agreement?
  • How to draw up a last will and testament?
  • How to refuse an inheritance?
  • Is it advantageous for me to refuse the inheritance?
  • How and under what circumstances can someone be disinherited?
  • How can I claim my inheritance title?
  • Representation in the transfer of assets to the heir
  • Representation in the event of claims (life insurance, etc.)
  • Representation in inheritance proceedings with a notary
  • Legal assistance to heirs in dealing with institutions (Czech Social Security Administration, banks, Vehicle Register, insurance companies…)
  • What to do when a loved one passes away
  • Settlement of heirs
  • Division of inherited property among heirs
  • Debts and receivables of the deceased