30 June 2019
Inheritance is fundamentally a difficult subject to think about, but as an expat with family in other countries, it can be even harder as you have to deal with contradictory and confusing international laws during a difficult time.
Here are some key considerations to simplify inheritance law for expats living in the Netherlands.
This post was reviewed and updated on 14 August 2020
Determining which country’s law applies to an inheritance is an important first step, as it can affect how the estate is divided, as well as the rights and obligations of the heirs.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, you may think that Dutch law will automatically apply to an inheritance you receive, regardless of where the deceased lived – but this is not guaranteed.
Every country has its own rules to determine which inheritance law applies to a person’s estate. This could be the law of the deceased’s country of nationality, or the law of the country where the deceased lived, or the law of the country where the property is located.
The only way to choose which law will apply to an estate is to stipulate that in a will. In a will, you may choose to apply the law of your own nationality to your estate. You cannot choose for another country’s law.
The Inheritance Law Regulation simplifies inheritance within the EU by introducing uniform rules for cross-border inheritance law. This regulation applies to all EU countries except for Denmark and Ireland.
Under this regulation, from 17 August 2015 onward, the law that will apply to any inheritance for which no will is made is the law of the country in which the deceased had his or her habitual residence at the time of their death.
This means that if you are, say, a Spanish person living in the Netherlands, and you die after 17 August 2015 without making a will, then Dutch law could apply to your estate.
When you are living in the Netherlands and you die without making a will, then Dutch law will determine what happens to your estate. Under Dutch law, your heirs will each be entitled to an equal share of your estate.
Here are four examples of what this could mean in practice:
When you are living in the Netherlands and you die after you have made a will, then your estate will be handled according to your will. Making a will gives you more choices:
If you are living in the Netherlands, then the best way to protect your heirs’ rights and to have your last wishes respected is, without question, to make a will.
Cross-border inheritance can be extremely complicated, and it is crucial to understand the consequences of your choices.
An international inheritance lawyer can help you make the best choices. This includes advice you can trust on the best law to apply, your rights within that law, special clauses to protect your heirs’ inheritance, guardianship and estate planning.
If you need help understanding your rights regarding a specific international inheritance, or if you’d like to discuss planning for your estate, our team of experts can help you. You can contact us by phone, email or using our online form.
This article was originally published on Legal Expat Desk
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