If you are a beneficiary or legatee to an estate that has devolved abroad, you will soon be able to make your statement of acceptance or rejection in the Netherlands.

How does it work again?
A beneficiary who inherits in the Netherlands has the following options after an estate has devolved:

  • unconditional acceptance;
  • acceptance under the benefit of inventory;
  • rejection.

An explanation of these options follows below.

Unconditional acceptance
In the event of unconditional acceptance, any debts of the deceased are jointly borne and paid by the beneficiaries, even if the debts exceed the assets of the estate. The beneficiaries are therefore liable in a personal capacity (with their own assets) for any portion of the debts that cannot be paid from the inheritance.

Acceptance under the benefit of inventory
This means that the beneficiaries are not liable to pay the debts of the estate using their “own” assets. Creditors of the deceased can only recover what is owed to them from the assets that belong to the estate. With this manner of acceptance, the estate must, in principle, be settled according to strict and formal rules (statutory settlement).

Rejection means all claims to the inheritance are forfeited, with retrospective effect: a beneficiary that rejects an inheritance is regarded as never having been a beneficiary. The share in the inheritance held by someone who rejects is therefore acquired by ‘right of representation’ by his/her children, and if there are no children, by the other beneficiaries. (This statutory arrangement can be deviated from by will).

A declaration of acceptance under benefit of inventory or a declaration of rejection must be made with the registry of the district court.

With the coming into force of the European Succession Regulation on 17 August 2015, beneficiaries and legatees who live in the Netherlands and who are faced with an estate that has devolved in another member state of the European Union (with the exception of Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland) will be able to make a declaration of acceptance or of rejection of the estate or the legacy at the registry of the district court in their place of residence, in accordance with the procedure applicable under Dutch law.

For the rest, the registry of the District Court in The Hague will remain competent with regard to declarations concerning estates containing Dutch assets which have devolved outside the European Union.

With effect from 17 August 2015, it is no longer necessary therefore to follow a similar procedure abroad. This makes it easier and less costly for beneficiaries (and legatees according to foreign law) to enforce their rights to a foreign estate, limit their liability with respect to a foreign estate (through acceptance under benefit of inventory) or waive their rights. Using the extract from the successions register, beneficiaries and legatees can provide proof of the fact that they have accepted or rejected the estate or legacy.

If the inheritance is subject to Dutch law, however, then the acceptance or rejection of a legacy cannot be entered in the successions register. The reason for this is that under Dutch law, a legacy can be acquired without acceptance and there is no prescribed form for rejection.

By Annick Schenkenberg van Mierop