If one of your relatives passes away in the Netherlands, what proportion of their estate are you entitled to as an expat? Inheritance law will dictate how the bequeathed’s assets are distributed. Learn about this, and the other factors that play into the portioning off an estate in the Netherlands, on this page.
SUCCESSION BY WILL IN NL
Let’s cover the basics of how a will works in the Netherlands, before we get going:
- In Holland, you can determine who your heirs are to be, through your will. This action is called ‘succession by will’
- If you have not made a will, then the law will determine who your heirs are
- This is described as ‘succession by law‘ or ‘intestate succession‘
- In the Netherlands, according to Dutch law, your will should be in the form of a deed, and made up by a Dutch civil law notary
SUCCESSION BY LAW IN NL
How does the law decide who your rightful heirs should be, if you have not don so yourself?
- You will only be entitled to someone’s inheritance if you are their blood relative, spouse or registered partner
- Someone’s children, adopted children and spouse or registered partner will each inherit an equal share of their assets and estate. These relatives are described as the ‘first group’ of heirs
- Parents, brothers, sisters, and their children, form the second group of heirs. If there are no living relatives from the first group of heirs, they will inherit the estate of the deceased
- Grandparents form the third group, and great-grandparents the fourth
- If there are no relatives within the first, second or third group respectively, then the relatives within the next group are eligible to be the inheritors
ALLOCATION BY LAW IN NL
- If the spouse, registered partner and children of the deceased are their heirs then, by intestate succession, the spouse or partner will inherit all assets and debts of the deceased
- The children of the deceased will only have a monetary claim to their own share of the deceased’s estate
- They can claim this at any time after the bequeathed has died, or gone bankrupt
- Allocation by law can be set aside in a will
- If this happens then the children of the deceased could, for instance, also take part in the proprietary rights and liabilities of his or her estate, instead of just having a monetary claim to them
- Should the spouse or registered partner of the bequeathed remarry, the bequeathed’s children are entitled to claim the proprietary rights of assets derived from the inheritance
- This law is in place so that the offspring of the bequeathed can avoid these assets ending up with their stepfamily
- The new spouse or registered partner may retain the usufruct of these assets
STATUTORY CLAIMS IN NL
Children always have a right to a fixed, minimum portion of the estate of their parents. This is referred to as the ‘statutory claim’:
- The statutory claim is powerful. If, for example, a parent states in his or her will that their child is not to inherit any of his or her assets. The child can still make a monetary claim on their joint heirs
- The statutory claim amounts to half of the value of the portion of the estate that the child would have inherited, had it not been disinherited
Is there anything a parent can do to protect themselves?
- In a will, a parent can state that the statutory claim is not claimable until his or her spouse, registered partner or partner with whom he or she cohabits, has died
- If the spouse or registered partner is disinherited, he or she can claim the usufruct of the family dwelling and furniture and even of other assets, if he or she is deemed to be in need of them
Conflicting Inheritance Laws
Every country has its own set of inheritance laws. So, for expats who have homes and ties to several different countries, things can get complicated.
International Private Law
- International private law determines which legislation is applicable to an estate of an international nature
- An estate is deemed to have an international nature if, for instance, its owner did not have Dutch nationality or was not residing in the Netherlands at the time of his or her death
Foreign Inheritance Law
- Every country has its own individual International Private Laws as well
- The authorities of any nation always apply the rules of their own country’s International Private Law to an inheritance case
This can lead to differences and conflict. International treaties are meant to prevent this from happening. In the Netherlands, the Dutch authorities apply the rules of The Hague Inheritance Treaty of 1989 to instances of international inheritance.
The Hague Inheritance Treaty of 1989
According to the treaty of 1989, Dutch inheritance law is applicable to the worldwide estate of the bequeathed, if:
- He or she was living in the Netherlands at the time of his or her death, and was of Dutch nationality, or
- The Bequeathed was living in the Netherlands at the time of his or her death, was not of Dutch nationality, but had been living in the Netherlands for more than five years before he or she died, or
- The deceased explicitly stipulated, in his or her will, that Dutch inheritance law was to apply to his or her estate. It would only be possible for this stipulation to be implemented if the deceased had Dutch nationality, or was living in the Netherlands at the time he or she died
In Europe, a Regulation on inheritance law was introduced in 2015. It applies to ‘international’ inheritances that became, or will become, available to their inheritors on or after August 17, 2015. In short, this regulation dictates that one single national law applies to an entire inheritance.
The European Inheritance Regulation
The Regulation applies to the entire European Union, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Denmark. It outlines the answers to the following questions:
- Which law applies to an inheritance?
- Who has a right to what?
- Will certain members of the family get a specific portion?
- Who is liable for the deceased’s debts?
- Which law applies to the settlement and the formalities of the cross-border succession?
So, what are the answers?
- The Regulation states that the law of the deceased’s last country of residence applies to his or her inheritance and its settlement
- This also goes for any property the deceased has, which is located in another country
Dutch Inheritance Tax
- There are no fiscal consequences for those who inherit assets under the European Inheritance Regulation
- Each country will apply its own rules to its inheritors, regarding the levying of inheritance tax
- These rules will take into account the location of the property, the deceased’s country of residence and or his or her nationality
- Unfortunately, this can generate considerable complications
Check out our page on ‘Inheritance tax in NL‘ for more detailed information on this topic.
Using your Will
Under the European Inheritance Regulation:
- It is possible to make the law of your country of nationality applicable to your estate, instead of that of your last country of residence
- Whether or not this is advisable depends on your personal circumstances, the location of your property and your relocation plans for the future
- You are also able to appoint an executor and/or an administrator in your will
- Making bequests is allowed as well, or arrangements that deviate from the legal inheritance rules
- Your can also include arrangements for property that is not located in the European Union. If you do this, you must take into account the laws of the country in which the property is located, so as to avoid any complications
Take a look at our page on ‘8 reasons to draw up a Will‘ to learn more.
Advice for Expats
- In international circumstances, it is best to include all arrangements that apply to your entire estate in one single will
- If necessary, these arrangements should be accompanied by clauses regarding specific items or properties
- A Dutch civil law notary who specializes in international inheritance law will be able to offer you tailor-made advice on these matters
- We strongly advise you to elicit the help of a Dutch civil law notary to steer as far clear of complications as possible! Have a look a look at our ‘useful links’ section, to to find out how to get in touch with one.
- The Notary Helpline: ‘De Notaristelefoon‘, Tel.: 0900 346 93 93 (0.80 € per minute)
- The Ministry of Security and Justice: ‘Ministerie Van Veiligheid En Justitie’
- The Institute for International Private and Public International Law
- Legal Aid Netherlands: ‘Rechtshulp Nederland‘
- The Dutch Association of Family Lawyers: ‘Vereniging Van Personen- En Familierecht Advocaten’