Death and inheritance law in the Netherlands

Death and inheritance law in the Netherlands

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When you come to the Netherlands as an expat, you are usually not concerned with death and inheritance law. Yet, you may also have to deal with death when living in another country. To avoid leaving your loved ones with questions, it may be wise to think about this while you are alive. After all, each country has its own rules, as GMW lawyers explains.

Inheritance regulation law

As an expat, you may have lived in multiple countries and accumulated assets in all of them, so what happens to your estate when you die? Which law applies to your estate? When it comes to inheritance law, each country has its own rules. This also applies to the applicable law; there are countries that follow the nationality of the deceased, the country of residence of the deceased or where the deceased accumulated their assets. In practice, this can cause quite a few problems if someone has a connection with several countries.

All members of the EU (excluding Denmark, Ireland and the UK), have tried to solve one of these problems by making their rules on the applicable law for inheritance law uniform: the law that applies to the estate is the law of the country in which the deceased had their habitual residence at the time of their death. In short, if you have not arranged anything regarding your estate and you pass away when you are living in the Netherlands, Dutch law may apply to your estate.

Choice of law

If you want to influence your choice of law, then that is possible. Thanks to the inheritance regulation law, you can only make a choice of law for the country in which you hold nationality. Based on the inheritance regulation law, your choice of law will apply in all member states, and this cannot be overruled. The only way to specify a choice of law in the Netherlands is in a will. A will is an official deed and according to the Dutch Civil Code, it can only be drawn up by a notary. Lawyers can’t draw up a will.

If you move from the Netherlands abroad or to a country outside the member states of this inheritance regulation, it might be useful to gain advice from a lawyer and / or notary to verify how these countries handle inheritance law.

Help with settling your estate

You and your partner might not have been thinking about inheritance law, but if the worst possible scenario occurs for you and your partner or (another) family member dies, the estate will have to be settled. If you are not familiar with (Dutch) inheritance law, we advise you to seek information first before you start settling the estate. In the Netherlands, unlike in other countries, as an heir you can become liable for the debts of the deceased in certain situations. Therefore, it is important that you are informed about this.

Get advice you can trust

When you are living in the Netherlands as an expat and / or you are Dutch and planning to live abroad, our advice is to start thinking about how you want to take care of your estate. For example, start thinking about a will if you have not already got one. If you have a will, check how the inheritance regulation law might affect your will. Your lawyer has the expertise to advise you on the possibilities. Please note that if you want to draw up a will in the Netherlands, a civil notary is the only one who is entitled to draw up this official deed.

GMW lawyers has English-speaking inheritance lawyers (no notaries) who can help you prevent problems or solve existing inheritance issues. For legal advice and assistance, please contact them using the button below, call 070 361 5048 or visit their website.

Lucienne Diaz Murillo


Lucienne Diaz Murillo

Lucienne works as a lawyer at GMW lawyers within the Family and Inheritance law section. She assists both family law and inheritance law clients. Lucienne is often involved in (international)...

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