Do I have to accept an inheritance?

You can accept an inheritance outright or under benefit of inventory or refuse it.

Accepting an inheritance outright

If you accept an inheritance outright, you inherit all the deceased person’s assets and liabilities. You can accept an inheritance outright by submitting a declaration to the clerk of the district court, but you do not have to. By law, you accept the inheritance outright if you dispose of the deceased person’s assets or settle any outstanding debts.

If you accept an inheritance outright, you are entitled to all the deceased person’s assets but you are also liable for all debts, even if they are higher than the assets. You must settle any remaining debts from your own assets.

Better protection against inherited debts

Your personal assets have been better protected against unforeseen debts in an inheritance since 1 September 2016. Under the Heirs (Protection against Debt) Act, you only accept an inheritance outright if you sell goods you inherit or otherwise prevent creditors from having them. An exemption is available if you are faced with unexpected debts after accepting an inheritance outright.

Accepting an inheritance under benefit of inventory

If you accept an inheritance under benefit of inventory you are not liable for any debts, not even if you have enough assets to settle them. But you cannot dispose of the estate until it is certain that all the debts have been settled. Heirs under the age of 18 can accept an inheritance only under benefit of inventory.

Refusing an inheritance

If you refuse or waive an inheritance, you are not liable for the estate and will not be involved in its settlement. You will not receive any assets but you will also not have to settle any debts.

Deciding to accept or refuse an inheritance

Creditors may not ask an heir to settle their debts in the first three months after the death. The heir can then decide to accept or reject the inheritance in peace.

Within these three months you should not do anything that suggests you have accepted the inheritance outright, such as selling the deceased person’s goods or home. If you do, it will be assumed by law that you have accepted the inheritance outright and thus can no longer choose to accept it under benefit of inventory or refuse it.

If you decide to accept the inheritance under benefit of inventory or refuse it, you must submit a declaration to the district court. If you are not sure what you should do, seek the advice of a notary or other inheritance specialist.

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