Can a father or mother disinherit their child in Poland?

Can a father or mother disinherit their child in Poland?

Our law firm often handles cases where significant conflicts have arisen between parents and children, resulting in children being disinherited by their parents. Disinheriting a child is possible, but specific conditions stipulated by Polish law must be met.

In a will, it is possible to disinherit close relatives. It might seem like a simple, straightforward process. Intuitively, one might think that writing a single sentence suffices: ‘I disinherit my daughter Laura.’ And the matter is settled. However, reality is quite different. The person drafting the will must provide a clear explanation for the decision to disinherit. This means that the will must specify whom we intend to disinherit and precisely describe the reasons for disinheritance.

Remember that a disinherited child will try to challenge your will in court in Poland, attempting to demonstrate that they were unjustly disinherited. The case will proceed after your death. Therefore, the disinheritance must be described in sufficient detail for the court to understand your perspective.

Furthermore, not every behavior can be a basis for disinheritance. To provide grounds for disinheritance, your child must engage in misconduct as described in the Polish Civil Code. The reasons for disinheritance are outlined below.

According to the Polish Civil Code, close relatives can be disinherited only if:

1. Contrary to the testator’s will, they persistently act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of social coexistence. For example, if a child engages in criminal activities, abuses alcohol, or uses drugs—in other words, behaves in a way contrary to generally accepted social norms—they can be disinherited in the will by their parent. However, improper behavior alone is not sufficient. The disinheriting parent must express disapproval of such behavior. If the parent accepts the child’s conduct, for example, by participating in alcohol abuse or benefiting from criminal activities, they cannot disinherit the child on that basis. Approval of such behavior does not provide grounds for disinheritance, despite being widely frowned upon in societal opinion. It is also essential to note that behavior contrary to social coexistence must be objective and not solely dependent on the testator’s point of view. For instance, a child’s life in a same-sex relationship or cohabitation cannot be a basis for disinheritance. Similarly, extravagant living, wasting one’s talent, or a lack of progress in education cannot justify disinheritance, even if the parent does not accept such behavior.

2. They commit intentional crimes against the life, health, or freedom of the testator or one of their closest persons, or they commit a gross insult to the testator’s honor. Not every crime justifies disinheritance. Only crimes against life, health, or freedom, or gross insults to honor, constitute grounds for disinheritance. Crimes justifying disinheritance may include, for example, murder, unintentional manslaughter, causing bodily harm, assault, endangerment, deprivation of liberty, violation of domestic peace, persistent harassment, recording and disseminating images of a naked person without their consent, defamation, insult, or violation of bodily integrity. Interestingly, theft, fraud, embezzlement, or extortion are not considered crimes justifying disinheritance.

3. They persistently fail in their family duties towards the testator. The most common reason for disinheritance in Poland is the persistent failure to fulfill family duties towards the testator. This is a broadly defined term. Persistent failure in family duties includes not providing assistance in illness and need, severing family ties, contributing to the cessation of emotional bonds. If a child cuts ties with a parent, makes no attempts to initiate or maintain contact, does not participate in family life, and shows no interest in the parent’s well-being, they may be disinherited. However, the parent cannot have a role in severing family ties. If the child has no contact with the parent due to reasons on the parent’s side, they cannot be punished through disinheritance. This has been confirmed by Polish Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Regardless of the reason for disinheritance stated in the will, it should be specified and detailed. Therefore, it is not a sensible idea to include a clause in the will like: ‘I disinherit my child due to persistent failure in family duties towards them.’ The testator’s decision should be more extensively justified, and the will should contain a description of the specific behaviors of the child that constitute a persistent failure in family duties. For example, it can be added that the mentioned failure manifested in:

– Ceasing visits to the testator,
– Hindering contact with grandchildren,
– Lack of support after surgical and rehabilitation treatment,
– Cutting off ties.

There are infinitely many reasons justifying disinheritance. It is crucial for them to be precisely and concretely described in the text of the Polish will.

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Inheritance in Poland