The European Succession Regulation took effect on 17 August 2015. In an earlier article I informed you about the European Succession Regulation and the choice of law in one’s will. Below I will talk about the function of and request for a European Certificate of Succession.

What is a certificate of succession?
A certificate of succession is a declaration from the civil-law notary, set down in a notarial deed, which states, among other things, who has died, who the beneficiaries are on grounds of a will or the law and to what parts of the estate, and who can settle the estate. A certificate of succession can, for instance, give the beneficiaries access to the testator’s bank accounts, enable them to change the names on these accounts and have a home registered to their own name.

Settlement of an estate involving international aspects
In settling an estate with international aspects, one is faced with the problem that national certificates of succession do not have the desired effect outside the borders of the country in which they have been issued, since they are not always recognised outside these borders. This is because of the major differences in form, content and legal consequences of national certificates of succession. With the introduction of the European Succession Regulation, EU member states have provided an instrument to tackle this problem: the European Certificate of Succession.

An inheritance with international aspects could be involved, for instance, if someone dies in the Netherlands but is a foreign national. Another example could be a Dutch national who dies abroad and/or who has assets abroad, such as bank accounts or property.

Who can request a European Certificate of Succession and how?
The European Certificate of Succession can be requested from a civil-law notary in the Netherlands using a form specially drawn up for this. Incidentally, the use of this form is not mandatory. The request must be made in Dutch or in another language that the civil-law notary understands.
Only a limited number of people can request a European Certificate of Succession.

You can request a European Certificate of Succession if you are

  1. a beneficiary,
  2. a legatee entitled directly to the estate,
  3. executor and/or
  4. administrator of the estate.

Under Dutch law a legatee is not directly entitled to the estate and will not be able to apply for a European Certificate of Succession therefore.

If you request a European Certificate of Succession, you must submit enough details and the documents that are necessary for the issue of a European Certificate of Succession. The applicant must state his/her envisioned purpose, for instance.  The envisioned purpose could include providing proof of: a) the legal position / rights of the beneficiaries and legatees, b) allocation of a particular asset, c) powers of the executor or administrator of the estate.

The details of the testator, details of the applicant, details of any spouse or partner and the details of any other individual who may have rights to the estate must also be provided. Finally, any will and/or prenuptial or postnuptial agreement which the testator had must be submitted with the request.

The European Certificate of Succession enables beneficiaries or other persons with rights to an estate in other European countries (with the exception of Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland) to provide proof of their legal position and means they no longer need to rely on the recognition of national certificates of succession in another member state. After the European Succession Regulation takes effect, in the Netherlands only the civil-law notary will be authorised to prepare a European Certificate of Succession.

By Annick Schenkenberg van Mierop