The most frequent situation
Why should I disclaim an inheritance? Simply because sometimes, a deceased person may leave debts. Those liabilities are also part of the inheritance, just like the assets. Sometimes, the total amount of those liabilities is higher than this of the assets. Therefore, if, as an heir, you do not wish to pay for those debts, you have the right to forfeit the inheritance.
Benefit from Morning Blue’s advice
We listen to you and give advice based on your personal situation. We help people every day, so our team has perfect knowledge of Belgian law and the persons to contact after a death.
If you would like to receive advice on disclaiming an inheritance, or if you have doubts about the choice to be made after a loved one has passed, you can fill out the form below. We will get back to you as soon as possible with solutions.
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Inheritance: what are your options?
Any heir, whether by intestate or will, has three options.
Accepting an inheritance: The heir's property and that of the deceased become one and the same. The heir has to pay the deceased's debts, even if they exceed the estate.
Accepting as a beneficiary: If you choose this option, the notary will make an inventory of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. The heir then receives money if the estate is positive and does not have to pay the deceased’s debts if the estate is negative. This solution is ideal, but expensive and time-consuming.
Disclaiming an inheritance: Heirs who disclaim an inheritance do not inherit the property or debts of the deceased. Their share of the inheritance goes to the other heirs.
Accepting as a beneficiary, also known as accepting an inheritance under benefit of inventory, and disclaiming an inheritance have to be presented by a declaration made to the clerk's office of the Court of First Instance where the deceased lived.
Why disclaim an inheritance in Belgium?
While there is often a tendency to believe that an inheritance cannot be refused, you may still have good reason to disclaim the inheritance that is being offered to you.
There are two main reasons for doing so:
You do not want to pay off the deceased's debts
You want your descendants to benefit from it.
1. Disclaiming an inheritance because of the deceased's debts
Why give up an estate? Quite simply because a person who dies sometimes leaves debts.
These are also part of the estate, along with the deceased's property. The estate's liabilities, i.e. the total debts, sometimes exceed the estate's assets, the total bequeathed property.
If, as the heir, you do not wish to pay these liabilities, you have the right to disclaim the inheritance.
What if you do not know if there are hidden debts?
If you have doubts about the inheritance, not knowing if there are hidden debts or if the deceased still had significant assets, you can ask for an acceptance of inheritance under benefit of inventory. An inventory of the deceased's assets will then be drawn up so you can have an overview of the estate before making a decision.
How to disclaim an insolvent estate
You are obliged to deal with a notary to disclaim an inheritance. They will draw up an official document called a declaration of renunciation. This formality is free of charge if the estate’s net assets do not exceed €5,219.21 (amount indexed August 2020). Choosing your notary can be simple, but choosing the right person with the appropriate skills is crucial if you want the process to be quick and easy.
Case study: John’s insolvent estate
Guy died at the age of 68. He had €4,500 in his bank accounts and a car valued at €3,500. He had also taken out a consumer loan, which had an outstanding balance of €26,000 at the time of his death.
The net assets of the estate are (4,500 + 3,500) - (26,000) = - 18,000€.
John, his only child, will have to reimburse the loan taken out by his late father if he accepts the inheritance.
Disclaiming an inheritance is final. Once an heir refuses it, they can no longer accept the inheritance afterwards, even if they learn that the deceased had a large asset of which they were unaware. This is why it is important to obtain legal advice before deciding to accept or refuse an inheritance.
2. Disclaiming an inheritance for the benefit of your successors
You could also choose to refuse the inheritance to benefit your own successors.
Perhaps you do not need these assets. In this case, you can refuse the inheritance so that it can be passed on directly and without additional taxes to the next generation.
This "generational leap" will save you duties and fees on your own estate.
Morning Blue supports you in this process
Regardless of the reason you are thinking about disclaiming an inheritance, the team at Morning Blue is here for you and can guide you through all steps to take after a loved one dies.