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Inheritance law

Legacy and gifts

Legacy is one of the ways in which a decedent can leave one or more people a claim on the estate. A legacy can consist of goods, such as jewellery or paintings, as well as money or services. The person who has been left a legacy is referred to as the legatee.

Legatee as creditor

If you decide not to refuse a legacy, you will become a creditor to the estate and will therefore have a claim on the estate. Unless otherwise determined by the decedent, the heirs will be held jointly liable for the legacy (claim). This means that the heirs are jointly liable for the fulfilment of the legacy. The decedent is free to deviate from this main rule. 

When is a legacy claimable?

If the decedent has failed to state anything about the claimability of the legacy in the will, the main rule is that the legacy will become claimable following the demise of the decedent. An exception to this rule is when a legacy is left in the form of a lump sum, in which case the legacy will only become claimable six months after the demise of the decedent. 

The legacy debt of an estate can however only be fulfilled once all the other debts of the estate have been fulfilled in full. If it transpires, once all debts have been paid, that the remaining assets are insufficient for the full fulfilment of the legacy, the ruling principle is that all legacies will be reduced proportionally. 

Information about the existence of a legacy

If you have a claim to a legacy (mostly the heirs), then you, as a legatee, should become informed about the legacy as soon as possible. If an executor has been appointed, it will be his/her duty to inform you to that effect. 

Do you need more detailed information on how to deal with legacies and gifts in your specific case? If so, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at SILK.

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Coen van den End


Margreet Ruijgrok


Sabrina de Jong


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