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Should an executor inform me as an heir about the settlement of the estate?

reading time 3 minutes published on 05 September 2022

In many Dutch wills, the testator has appointed an executor (also known as executor testamentary) whose task is to settle the estate. If you are an heir in such an estate, you will have to deal with this executor. In the blog below, I will explain what duties the executor has under Dutch law, what the relationship between the executor and heirs is, what information an executor is required to provide to the heirs, and what you can do if this does not happen.

What are the executor’s duties?

The executor’s job is to manage the estate. Part of that is mapping out the estate with what is called an estate description. This is a description of all assets and debts of the testator as of the date of death. 

The executor must ensure that all debts of the estate are paid. In doing so, the executor has the authority to liquidate assets of the estate. This may include the selling of household effects, the house itself or other property of the testator. 

When disposing of goods, the executor will consult with the heirs as much as possible about which goods should be sold and in what way. This is except in cases where the testator has stipulated in the will that the executor does not have to consult. If, as an heir, you object to the monetization of a particular asset, you can ask the district judge to give ruling on the matter.

At the end of the administration of the estate, the executor must provide a written final accountability to the heirs. After termination of the executor’s task, the estate can be divided among the heirs and you as heir will receive your share of the estate.

What may I do as an heir if there is an executor?

When an executor has been appointed by the testator and he/she has accepted the appointment, the executor is considered the administrator of the estate. In doing so, the executor represents the heirs in and out of court. This means that heirs may not dispose of goods of the estate or act in behalf of the estate without the cooperation of the executor or the authorization of the district judge. 

In short, as an heir you may not simply dispose of parts of the estate yourself. The presence of an executor therefore hinders the heirs in their actions regarding the estate. In many cases you can go to court if you have a dispute with the executor about the administration of the estate.

What information must an executor give me as an heir?

An executor is legally obliged to give an heir all the information he/she wants concerning the execution of his task. This means that an executor will have to give you the underlying documents for the inventory of the estate. In this way, as an heir, you will be able to verify the executor’s management of the estate.

What to do if the executor does not inform me?

If an executor does not provide you with information, the first step will be to remind the executor (with or without the help of a lawyer) in writing of his/her duty to provide the heirs with all the information they require.

If the executor then still fails to disclose information, you can go to court and force the executor to provide you with information, for example under penalty of a fine. In an extreme case, you as heir can ask the court to dismiss the executor.

Personalized advice

Are you an heir in an estate and would you like receive advice or guidance on contacting the executor of the estate? Or are you an executor and wondering what information you are obliged to provide to a heir? If so, please contact me to discuss what I can do for you.

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