Find out if inheritance tax in the Netherlands and Dutch inheritance law apply to your worldwide assets as an expat or non-resident, plus how to prepare a Dutch will.
For expats who have relocated to the Netherlands, it is important to be aware of any Dutch inheritance and tax implications on your assets, inheritance or estate planning. Foreign residents living in the Netherlands can be subject to Dutch inheritance law and inheritance tax in the Netherlands on worldwide assets, although recent reforms and bilateral agreements allow certain foreigners to avoid this with the appropriate will revisions.
This guide explains the essentials of inheritance law in the Netherlands and conditions for writing a Dutch will. It includes information about Dutch succession rules for expats, inheritance tax in the Netherlands for non-residents, and types of wills.
Find out if inheritance tax and inheritance law in the Netherlands applies to your situation and how to protect your assets.
Working on finding a sustainable solution, focusing on the future together with her client: this is the way Carlijn van der Vegt-Boshouwers from SCG Lawyers likes to advise and inform you in family law matters, such as maintenance, care arrangements, divisions and the settlement of prenuptial agreements. You can also turn to her for international family law issues, as she looks after the interests of expats both in and outside the Netherlands. Carlijn also works as a divorce mediator.
Dutch inheritance law
Dutch inheritance law is detailed in Book 4 (Law of Succession) of the Dutch Civil Code. The scope of this law is outlined in the 1989 Hague Inheritance Treaty, which states that it applies to Dutch nationals currently living in the Netherlands and foreign residents living in the Netherlands for five years before their death.
However, there have been recent changes to EU rules which mean that EU citizens living abroad (in most countries) can now choose whether the law of their home country or their country of residence applies. If a foreign resident dies without leaving a will or making an official declaration on which law they wish to apply, the law of the country in which they resided for the last five years will apply.
Forced heirship in the Netherlands
Dutch inheritance law includes provisions for forced heirship, which places some restrictions on how an estate is distributed. Under forced heirship the children of the deceased are entitled to claim 50% of what they would have received under intestacy rules if they are disinherited. Spouses and registered partners who are disinherited can also claim lifetime use (usufruct) of the family home or other estate assets.
In the event that a person dies in the Netherlands without leaving a will, Dutch intestacy rules laid out under Dutch inheritance law state that the estate is distributed as follows:
- between the surviving spouse/partner and children;
- in the case of no spouse/partner or children, between parents and siblings;
- if none of the above, between grandparents;
- if none of the above, between great grandparents.
In cases where an heir has passed away (or rejects an inheritance), their share will be distributed equally between any children they have.
If there is a surviving spouse/partner and children, Dutch inheritance law under statutory provision states that the estate passes to the spouse/partner but the children retain a monetary claim on the estate equivalent to their share, which they can cash in in the event of the death, remarriage or bankruptcy of the spouse/partner. Rules of community of property apply in the Netherlands, meaning that – unless a matrimonial agreement has been made to the contrary – all assets of a married couple are jointly owned. In the event death, the surviving spouse/partner automatically retains their half and the other half becomes the deceased’s estate.
The rights of heirs
Heirs have a right to choose whether to accept or reject an inheritance. As inheritance in the Netherlands can consist of assets or debts, heirs can also choose to accept only on condition that the assets exceed the debts. If an heir chooses to reject an inheritance, the decision is irreversible.
Under Dutch inheritance law, the estate passes to heirs directly by universal succession, so there is no need for probate proceedings.
If you own property in the Netherlands, details on how to register it can be found in Expatica’s guide to buying property in the Netherlands.
Dutch inheritance law for foreigners
A change in EU rules on cross-border succession came into effect in 2015, allowing EU citizens or official EU residents to 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, and the United Kingdom, as these countries opted out. It will, however, apply to nationals of these countries if they become resident elsewhere in the EU. The EU provides details on country-agreements for cross-border succession.
If you are an expat living in the Netherlands with EU citizenship and want the inheritance laws of your country of nationality to apply, 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 law. This includes not discriminating heirs based on gender or if they were born out of wedlock.
The EU rules do not apply to the following matters linked to your inheritance:
- inheritance taxes;
- your civil status;
- the property regime of your marriage/partnership;
- matters concerning companies.
Dutch inheritance tax and rates
Inheritance tax in the Netherlands is levied on the estate of the deceased. It is payable on all worldwide assets of anyone who is classified as a Dutch resident for tax purposes at the time of their death. Dutch law considers émigrés as residents for inheritance and gift tax purposes for 10 years after emigration, however. Read more in our guides to Dutch taxes, doing an income tax return in the Netherlands, and claiming non-resident taxpayer status.
Inheritance tax in the Netherlands is payable on the net value of the estate. This is the value of all moveable and fixed assets minus outstanding debts and funeral costs. The assets include:
- all gifts donated within 180 days before death;
- proceeds of a life insurance, if the law obliges the deceased to contribute to such insurance.
Dutch inheritance tax rates and gift tax rates are the same. The 2019 rates for inheritance tax in the Netherlands are:
- Spouse/partner and children: 10% on inheritance below €124,727, and 20% on any inheritance above the threshold.
- Grandchildren: 18% below €124,727, 36% above.
- All others: 30% below €124,727, 40% above.
The current rates of tax-free allowance are:
- Spouse/partner: up to €650,913 depending on pension values.
- Children and grandchildren: €20,616
- Sick and disabled children: €61,840
- Parents: €48,821
- All others: €2,173
Charities and social welfare community organizations are exempt from inheritance tax in the Netherlands.
Dutch taxation law requires inheritance tax paid within eight months of the date of death.
Inheritance tax in the Netherlands for non-residents
Certain foreign nationals will be subject to double taxation, meaning they are liable to pay taxes in the Netherlands and their home country. The Netherlands has double tax treaties with several nations, however, to allow foreign residents to avoid double taxation.
If you are an expat living in the Netherlands, there is no legal requirement to make a Dutch will. Dutch authorities will recognize wills drawn up in other countries if they conform with the national standards.
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, Dutch inheritance laws apply. This means if you have allocated proportions of your estate that encroach upon the Netherlands’ reserve that has to go to recognized 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 Dutch will and one drawn up in your home country. This is possible 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. Information on English-speaking lawyers worldwide can be found online, for example, Worldwidelawyers.co.uk.
There are two main types of Dutch wills:
- Notarial last will: the most common type of Dutch will. Notaries draw up this will and keep it in the Central Register for Last Wills.
- Holographic will: a testator draws up this private will and gives it to a notary.
In the event that a war or civil war is ongoing, an officer of the armed forces serve as witnesses for emergency wills.
Certain possessions (such as clothing, jewelry, books, and household objects) can be bequeathed by a separate codicil of will. This is a handwritten and signed document.
The Netherlands does not recognize joint wills.
Writing a Dutch will
The testator writes this will by hand and signs it. If another person writes it up, the testator signs each page. A notary keeps the will for safekeeping.
The testator dictates this will to a notary, who ensures the will complies with Dutch standards. The notarial is then registered with the Central Register of Wills on the first following working day.
There is no legal requirement to appoint an executor or administrator with a Dutch will. The testator can appoint one, however.