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Heir in a Dutch estate: what to be aware of when accepting a Dutch estate

reading time 3 minutes published on 11 September 2023

Suppose you have been named heir in a Dutch estate. You must then make a choice about rejecting or accepting the inheritance. In rejecting an inheritance, you indicate that you are completely renouncing the inheritance. When you wish to accept, there are two options for this purpose: you can accept the estate purely or declare to accept beneficial. In this blog, I explain these two forms of acceptance and their consequences under Dutch law.

What does pure acceptance mean?

The pure acceptance of an inheritance means that you accept the estate completely and without reservation. As a result, the assets of the testator are legally considered one with your private assets. The two estates (all assets and debts) - that of the testator and of you - become, as it were, mixed.

What does beneficial acceptance mean?

Beneficial acceptance means that you indicate that you wish to accept the inheritance but under the right of inventory. Beneficial acceptance has an important difference in consequence compared to pure acceptance, namely that the assets and debts of the testator remain separate assets and debts. Therefore, in principle, you are not liable for the testator’s debts with your private assets.

What can creditors do regarding the debts of the testator?

Suppose you are the sole heir in an estate and the estate amounts to 100. If there are debts amounting to 120, this means that under pure acceptance, creditors can recover the remaining 20 that they cannot recover from the estate, from you privately. In the case of beneficial acceptance, creditors can only enforce the 100 of the estate and your private assets remain out of reach.

Given the foregoing, the advice is to always accept beneficially. Even if you had a very close relationship with the testator and have had insight or knowledge of the financial situation of the testator. When settling the inheritance, a yet unknown debt or claim from the past may emerge.

How can I accept a Dutch inheritance?

Pure acceptance does not require you to do anything. A pure acceptance can be evidenced by the actions you take with respect to the estate. These may include actions where you appropriate items from the testator or pay debts of the testator with funds from the estate. Towards third parties, you must act as a “pure heir”.

For beneficial acceptance, you must report to the registry of the court located in the last residence of the testator to make a declaration of beneficial acceptance. This may be a court other than the court of your own residence.

For making the declaration, court fees in the amount of € 134 are due. The court fee is an obstacle for some heirs to accept in favor of the estate. However, in view of the far-reaching consequences associated with pure acceptance, the urgent advice is to pay the court fee anyway.

Consequences of beneficial acceptance

Upon beneficial acceptance of an inheritance, it is your responsibility (with or without the other heirs) to settle the estate including an estate inventory containing of an overview of all assets and debts

Personalized advice

Have you been named heir in an estate, and would you like to know what steps to take? Please contact me to discuss if and how I am able to assist you.

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