Changes in the inheritance law

30 Nov 2016 | Genoveva Geppaart

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If you are a beneficiary to inherit in the Netherlands, there are 3 options:

  • unconditional acceptance (zuiver aanvaarden);  you inherit not only the goods but also the debts even if they are higher than the value of the goods. 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 (beneficiair aanvaarden); you are not liable to pay the debts of the estate using your “own” assets. Creditors of the deceased can only recover what is owed to them from the assets that belong to the inheritance. With this way of acceptance, the inheritance must be settled according to strict and formal rules.  
  • rejection (verwerpen); all claims to the inheritance are rejected, with retrospective effect: a beneficiary that rejects an inheritance is regarded as never having been a beneficiary.

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


 Changes as of 1 September 2016

Since 1 September 2016 there are three important changes:

  • if you accepted the inheritance unconditionally but are still confronted with debts, you can go to court and still accept under the benefit of inventory.
  • you are better protected. If you remove all the goods from the house does not automatically mean that you accept the inheritance unconditionally. This is only then case if you sell parts of the inheritance or take money from the bank account of the deceased.
  • If the inheritance has already been divided and at a later moment an unexpected creditor comes, you are not liable to pay with your own assets. However, you need to pay back what you inherited.

You need to go to court within 3 months after you discovered the debt. Be aware that the court can be tough. Not all debts you were not aware of are considered as unexpected debts

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