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Written by:
Bas Hollenberg


Better debt protection for heirs

The amendment of Dutch inheritance law offering heirs greater protection against previously unknown estate-associated debts came into force on the first of September of this year, resulting in heirs who in the wake of their acceptance of their inheritance without the benefit of inventory (unqualified acceptance) are faced with previously unknown debts on the part of the deceased being given another three months to switch from unqualified to qualified acceptance. Heirs who avail themselves of this option cannot be held liable for estate-associated shortfalls (which they might otherwise have to make good using their own resources). The newly introduced option is also available to anyone who, having already plumped for unqualified acceptance, finds out after the first of September 2016 that the deceased estate comes with previously unknown debts. 

The opportunity has moreover been taken to clarify when exactly an heir is deemed to have accepted his or her inheritance without the benefit of inventory (unqualified acceptance). An heir’s administrative management of a deceased estate may not be construed as an action on his or her part implying that he or she has plumped for unqualified acceptance. The proper administrative management of a deceased estate may for example involve an heir selling off perishable items of property forming part of the estate. Unqualified acceptance may not be inferred while the proceeds of the sale remain available to the deceased’s creditors. By contrast, actions resulting in the deceased’s creditors being duped will result in the relevant heir being deemed to have opted for unqualified acceptance. Acts and/or actions performed in the interests of the deceased estate come under the heading of “proper administrative management” and do not justify the assumption of unqualified acceptance of inheritance. 

The legal amendment also applies to heirs who on the first of September 2016 had not yet made up their mind as to whether to accept their share of a deceased estate with or without the benefit of inventory (or renounce it altogether).

Dutch version: Betere bescherming erfgenamen tegen schulden

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