inheritance tax belgium

Expat guide to inheritance tax in Belgium, inheritance law and drawing a last will

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Inheritance tax in Belgium can apply to worldwide assets; find out if your assets or real estate are subject to Belgian inheritance law and what Belgian inheritance tax you are liable to pay.

For expats who move to Belgium or retire in Belgium, it's important to be aware of any implications on your inheritance, assets and estate planning. For many foreigners, Belgian inheritance law will apply as well as inheritance tax in Belgium, although exemptions apply.

This guide explains which assets and real estate are subject to Belgian inheritance law for foreigners, and who is liable to pay inheritance tax in Belgium. It also explains the law of succession law in Belgium when no will exists (intestate law) and what happens to unclaimed inheritance, plus how to draw up a will in Belgium.

In the event of a death, surviving relatives may also be eligible to access the deceased's Belgian pension assets. More information is explained in our guide to Belgian pensions.

Belgian inheritance law

Belgian inheritance law

Belgian inheritance law is residence-based, meaning that if Belgium is your country of principle residence (ie. the country where you normally live and where your family and economic interests are based) then Belgian inheritance law will apply upon your death. Read more about non-resident taxpayer status in Belgium.

Recent changes to EU legislation mean that if a person has their principle residence in Belgium, then Belgian inheritance law applies to their whole estate including real estate owned abroad. However, foreign residents can opt to have their estate handled according to the laws of their home country instead (explained below). Prior to these changes, those with real estate in countries other than where they live would often have their estates dealt with by dual (or multiple) inheritance laws.

Belgian inheritance law follows a system of 'forced heirship'. This means there are restrictions on how the deceased's estate is distributed, in that a certain percentage has to be passed to heirs. The remainder, however, can be distributed according to a will. Transfer of an estate is automatic under Belgian inheritance law and there is no requirement for any probate or court order.

Belgium's system of 'forced heirship' means that certain relatives cannot be excluded from inheriting a person's estate. Belgian inheritance law dictates that a certain percentage of the estate (the 'reserve') needs to be distributed as follows:

  • At least 50 percent to children if there is only one child; 66.6 percent if there are two children; 75 percent if there are three or more children
  • If there are no children, the parents or grandparents are entitled to 50 percent (25 percent to the mother's side, 25 percent to the father's side)
  • The surviving spouse is entitled to a right to hold 50 percent of the assets (primarily the family home) and earn dividends, interest, rent, etc.


Beyond this, a person may distribute their assets as they wish by drawing up a Belgian will.

Belgian inheritance law: no will (intestate)

If no will has been left, Belgian intestate law determines that the estate is divided equally between:

  • children and grandchildren;
  • if there are no children or grandchildren, it is divided between parents and grandparents;
  • if no parents or grandparents make a claim, it's divided between siblings and their relatives;
  • if there is nobody from any of these groups to distribute to, the estate passes to the Belgian government.


The rights of the surviving spouse depend on the situation in cases where there is no will:

  • If the deceased has one or more children, the spouse is entitled to earn dividends, interest, rent, etc. from the estate.
  • If there are no children but other legally recognised heirs, the spouse inherits the community property and is entitled to earn interest, etc. from any private property owned by the deceased.
  • If there are no heirs, the spouse inherits the whole estate.


All beneficiaries to an estate, whether as heirs or through a will, can choose whether to accept or reject their inheritance. Under Belgian inheritance law there are three options:

  • Accept an inheritance, which means obligation to pay debts even if they exceed the value of the estate.
  • Accept under 'beneficium inventarii' ('benefit of the inventory') which means that debts cannot exceed the value of the estate.
  • Rejection of inheritance.


Accepting under 'beneficium inventarii' and rejection must be given in a declaration to the clerk of the court.

Belgian inheritance law for foreigners

A change in EU rules on cross-border successions came into effect in August 2015 which means EU citizens or official residents can now choose whether the laws of their country of residence or their country of nationality apply to their estate upon their death. This applies even if you are a national of a non-EU country. The rules don't apply in Denmark, Ireland the UK as these countries opted out, although will apply to nationals of these countries if they live in a participating EU member state.

If you are an expat living in Belgium and want the inheritance laws of your country of nationality to apply rather than Belgian inheritance law, you need to express this clearly in a will or separate declaration. These laws will then apply as long as they don't contravene local public policy (eg. discrimination of heirs based on gender or whether born out of wedlock).

The EU rules do not apply to not apply to the following matters linked to your inheritance:

  • inheritance taxes
  • your civil status
  • the property regime of your marriage/partnership (how your property should be divided after the death of your spouse/partner)
  • matters concerning companies.

Belgium inheritance tax

Belgian inheritance tax

Inheritance tax in Belgium is levied on all assets other than real estate outside Belgium if the deceased lived in Belgium, and on real estate inside Belgium if the deceased was based abroad. There is an exemption for inheritance tax purposes for diplomats from the EU and NATO residing in Belgium for work.

Belgian inheritance tax – erfbelasting in Dutch, or les droits de succession in French – is paid on the net value of the estate. This is the total value of assets plus corrections (debts, gifts, life insurance policies) minus liabilities (outstanding loans, maintenance payments, hospital bills, funeral costs, capital taxes paid abroad).

Inheritance tax in Belgium is a regional tax and thus varies from region to region. Belgian inheritance tax is paid to the region in which the deceased was a tax resident for the majority of the last five years of their life. Inheritance tax rates in Belgian regions are as outlined below.

Inheritance tax in Brussels

Tax-free allowances of EUR 15,000 apply to spouses and direct descendants/ascendants (extra EUR 2,500 per year for children under 21); all other can claim a tax-free threshold of EUR 1,250.


Children, parents, spouse, grandparents/children

Brothers, sisters

Uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces

Other heirs

Up to EUR 50,000

3 percent

20–30 percent

35 percent

40 percent

EUR 50–100,000

8 percent

40 percent

50 percent

55 percent

EUR 100–175,000

9 percent

55 percent

60 percent

65 percent

EUR 175–250,000

18 percent

60 percent

70 percent

80 percent

EUR 250–500,000

24 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

EUR 500,000+

30 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

Inheritance tax in Flanders

Residents in Flanders are given a tax-free allowance of EUR 500 for inheritances less than EUR 50,000.

 

Children, parents, spouse, grandparents/children

Brothers, sisters

Other heirs

Up to EUR 50,000

3 percent

30 percent
(up to EUR 75,000)

45 percent
(up to EUR 75,000)

EUR 50–250,000

9 percent

55 percent

55 percent

EUR 250,000+

27 percent

65 percent

65 percent

Inheritance tax in Wallonia

The tax-free allowance for spouses and direct descendants/ascendants is set at EUR 25,000 for inheritances less than EUR 125,000, and EUR 12,500 for inheritances more than EUR 125,000 (extra EUR 2,500 per year for children under 21); EUR 620 tax-free is granted for all other heirs.

 

Children, parents, spouse, grandparents/children

Brothers, sisters

Uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews

Other heirs

Up to EUR12,500

3 percent

20 percent

25 percent

30 percent

EUR 12–25,000

4 percent

25 percent

30 percent

35 percent

EUR 25–50,000

5 percent

35 percent
(up to EUR 75,000)

40 percent
(up to EUR 75,000)

60 percent
(up to EUR 75,000)

EUR 50–100,000

7 percent

50 percent

55 percent

80 percent

EUR 100–150,000

10 percent

50 percent
(up to EUR 175,000)

55 percent
(up to EUR 175,000)

80 percent

EUR 150–200,000

14 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

EUR 200–250,000

18 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

EUR 250–500,000

24 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

EUR 500,000+

30 percent

65 percent

70 percent

80 percent

Taxes on family businesses transferred in inheritance

  • Brussels – 3 percent flat rate (if company meets certain conditions of employment, investment and minimum shareholding).
  • Flanders – businesses located in EU are exempt if the deceased held at least 50 percent of shares and certain employment conditions met.
  • Wallonia – 3 percent maximum rate.

Double taxation on Belgian inheritance tax

Belgian inheritance law dictates that residents in Belgium pay tax on global assets, while non-residents only pay Belgian inheritance tax on Belgium-based assets. Belgium doesn't generally grant any relief from double taxation with respect to inheritance tax, meaning that assets can be subject to double tax. Only inheritance tax paid on real estate abroad can be exempt from double taxation, while any other capital tax paid abroad can be offset as a liability against the net value of the estate.

Belgium only has double tax treaties regarding inheritance tax with France and Sweden.

Inheritance tax in belgium – last will

Last wills in Belgium

If you are an expat living in Belgium, there is no legal requirement to draw up a will in Belgium. Belgian authorities will recognise wills drawn up in other countries. However, if you are a foreign resident and you haven't stipulated in your will that you want your estate to be handled according to the laws of your country of nationality, Belgian inheritance law will apply. If you have left proportions of your estate that encroach upon Belgium's 'reserve' that has to go to recognised heirs, these amounts will have to be reduced.

It is possible to change a will at any time and it's also permissible to have two wills – a Belgian will and one drawn up in your home country – as long as one doesn't accidentally revoke or negate the other. It is best to consult with a solicitor first if you are thinking of doing this.

There are three types of will in Belgium:

  • Holograph will – written entirely by hand and either kept at home or filed with a notary.
  • Public or authentic will – received by a notary in the presence of two witnesses, or received by two notaries.
  • International will – advisable when either the testator, heirs or assets are non-Belgian. The will is signed by the testator, a notary and two witnesses and then attached to an attestation by the notary who will be responsible for keeping it.

How to draw up a last will in Belgium

The process of drawing up a will in Belgium varies depending on which type of Belgian will you choose.

Holograph will

This is the simplest and least-expensive option although it takes longer to execute than other Belgian will types. You just have to write your will by hand, sign and date it. You can file it with a notary (person will legal training licensed to deal with documents such as wills) or keep it at home. Upon your death, the will is taken to a notary who will act as the executor for the will.

Public or authentic will

This Belgian will needs to be drawn up and then read by the notary in the presence of two witnesses. The will needs to acknowledge the reserved part of the estate subject to forced heirship. The will is signed in front of the witnesses. This option guarantees that procedures are followed correctly although it is more expensive, with fees paid to the notary.

International will

This also involves presenting your Belgian will to a notary in the presence of witnesses, but the will is concealed in an envelope and doesn't need to be read out in advance and doesn't get checked to make sure it follows guidelines. The notary keeps the envelope, together with an attestation of your declaration that it contains your last will and testament.

Public/authentic wills and international wills are registered with the Central Register of Last Wills and Testaments in Belgium.

The Royal Federation of Belgian Notaries provides more information and a tool to find notaries by postcode.

Unclaimed inheritance in Belgium

If an inheritance is unclaimed, if there are no heirs or it is rejected by all beneficiaries, then the estate is passed to the Belgian state.

More information


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