I have a situation where a house which is situated in West Pomeranian Voivodeship (english) Województwo zachodniopomorskie (polish) (Poland) has been left to be inherited equally between 3 siblings. One of the siblings (sibling A) has debts (relating to child support + possibly others).

The parent (who currently owns + lives in the house) is at a fairly old age.

In the event that the parent passes away and the house is left to be inherited, does the debt + child support that (sibling A) owe to the government / state have any effect on the inheritance share of the remaining siblings (the other two)?

Where the siblings reside: Two siblings including sibling A currently reside in Poland, while another sibling resides in another country (non EU).

Who lives in the house currently: The remaining parent (still alive).

  • 1
    What jurisdiction (country and state/province) is the house in? Are all the siblings in the same jurisdiction? if not, where are they? Dec 20 '18 at 21:35

This will depend on the specific jurisdiction, but in general, if the house is left jointly to A, B, and C, an A has debts to the government which A cannot otherwise pay, A may be compelled to sell his or her share and use some or all of the proceeds to pay those debts. B & C's shares should not be affected.

If A has private debts and a judgment has been obtained against A, A's share may also need to be sold to help satisfy the judgment.

However, if B & C want to retain the house rather than sell it, they may have to buy A's share. In that case it would be wise to obtain an independent appraisal of the house, or some other independent method of setting a value on it, as the government may not accept B&C's decision as to the value. (They may need to do this anyway, to value the house for tax purposes.)

In most US states, child support is primarily owed to the custodial parent, not to the government. However, if support is unpaid and the custodial parent has received governmental assistance, in some jurisdictions the government may take action against the non-custodial parent to collect and offset the cost of the benefits. In some jurisdictions, if support is unpaid, the government may act to collect it on behalf of the custodial parent.


It depends on how the house has been inherited - whether as joint tenants or tenants-in-common. If the will is silent then that is a choice to be made by the executor.

In a joint tenancy the ownership is indivisible - while a lien can be placed over it, the lien holder cannot force a sale of the property. For tenants-in-common the owners own 'shares' that can be sold individually - a lien holder could force the sale of the indebted persons share.

  • This appears to be a common-law distinction while Poland is not a common-law country.
    – MSalters
    Feb 7 '20 at 16:23

In the event that the parent passes away and the house is left to be inherited, does the debt + child support that (sibling A) owe to the government / state have any effect on the inheritance share of the remaining siblings (the other two)?

Not automatically. The default rule, in the absence of a will or non-probate transfer or surviving spouse, would be that each child receives an equal share and the share received by sibling A is then an asset from which creditors can collect the debts owed to them like any other asset of sibling A.

Suppose a creditor than "executes" upon the interest of sibling A and becomes the new owner of A's interest.

(This possibility comes with a nuance, however. If A lives in the property which is a residence, then A can claim a homestead exemption in A's one-third interest (something that varies in dollar value dramatically from one jurisdiction to another) and a creditor can execute on A's interest only if it is worth more than the homestead exemption and if the creditor pays the homestead exemption amount to A who can then use those funds to invest in a different home.)

Then, usually, the creditor would bring a "partition action" which would require the property to be either divided in kind, if feasible, or sold with the proceeds divided equally between the creditor and the two remaining siblings, subject to adjustments for contributions to the property (e.g. capital improvement expenditures or mortgage paydowns) not made equally by all co-owners, if not negotiated resolution is reach in the partition action.

But, if sibling A "disclaims" the inheritance (i.e. refuses to except the gift received upon death) in the manner allowed under the particular jurisdiction's laws, then sibling A is treated as having predeceased siblings B and C. In all likelihood (assuming that sibling A's children for whom he owes child support are still alive), this will cause sibling A's share to pass to sibling A's children in equal shares at the death of the parent, and the creditor will not be able to claim an interest in the inheritance.

@DaleM's answer assumes a will, and in many jurisdictions, a tenants-in-common ownership would be mandatory in the absence of a specific provision in the will to the contrary.

His statement that "In a joint tenancy the ownership is indivisible - while a lien can be placed over it, the lien holder cannot force a sale of the property." is the minority rule. The majority rule is that even if the property is initially in joint tenancy, any creditor's claim against one or more but not all of the joint tenants, severs the joint tenancy and converts it to a tenancy-in-common.

It is also possible in some circumstances, for the will, or the agreement of the co-owners, to waive the right to a partition action, in which case the value of A's interest in the property is reduced to a right to use the property together with B and C, which is much less valuable to an investor (since it can't quickly be converted to cash) and is very disruptive if the right is exercised because a stranger creditor or their assignee can use the house and walk into the bedrooms and bathrooms otherwise occupied by B and C, anytime that he or she wants to do so, without paying any rent.

In the U.S., the only form of joint tenancy that cannot be severed by a creditor is called a "tenancy-by-entireties" which still exists only in a handful of U.S. states and can only be created with a husband and wife as the co-owners (or presumably a husband and husband, or wife and wife, now that same sex marriage is allowed in all U.S. jurisdictions).

UPDATE based on jurisdiction information:

Inheritance law is normally determined by the place where the decedent (i.e. dead person) was domiciled (i.e. resided on regular basis with no intent that it be temporary only). Real estate law is usually governed by the law of the place where the real estate is located. In this case, both of those locations would be Poland. So, the Polish Civil Code as to the real property and inheritances would apply. But, Polish law is beyond my expertise to answer in the detail of my original answer. My answer and both of the other answers are based upon the rules that apply in the common law country tradition, while Poland is a civil law country.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.