Community of heirs - liability of the co-heirs towards third parties
Very often the testator bequeaths his property to more than one heir. If there is more than one heir, they form a community of heirs. They not only share the decedent's positive assets, but also have to take care of the estate's liabilities. What rights the community of heirs has and how it is dissolved can already be read here.
How is the community of heirs liable for estate liabilities?
In principle, the co-heirs are jointly and severally liable pursuant to Section 2058 of the German Civil Code. In such joint and several liability, a creditor of the estate can choose which of the heirs is to be held liable for an existing estate claim.
The creditor does not have to take into account the share of the co-heir in the estate. In practice, however, the co-heir who the creditor considers to be the most solvent is the one most frequently claimed.
If a claimed co-heir has to pay for a liability, he or she is not completely on his or her own. Rather, he has a claim for compensation against the other co-heirs. This is intended to ensure that the liabilities are divided fairly and that all heirs participate in accordance with their inheritance quotas.
Upon the establishment of the community of heirs, the claim for compensation against the other heirs arises pursuant to Section 426 of the German Civil Code (BGB) and also includes a claim of the affected co-heir against the other heirs that they participate under certain circumstances in the defense against an unfounded claim raised against the estate.
How long do I have to assert a claim for compensation?
Pursuant to Section 195 of the German Civil Code (BGB), the claim for compensation becomes time-barred after three years.