Succession handling (3/5): The Act of Heredity

The notary has now put several procedures in place in order to create a file that will allow him to successfully handle the succession. He will then reunite the heirs again to have them sign the so-called act of heredity. 

Third step: The act of heredity

Shortly after the first appointment, the notary will convoke the heirs again so that they can sign an act of heredity.


A few words about the act of heredity

The act of heredity is simple a notarial act that lists the identity of the deceased person and his/her heirs. By signing this act, the heirs acknowledge that they do not have knowledge of any other potential heir. This document, which formalises the status of heir, also states in which proportion they will inherit.


Why an act of heredity?

As simple as it seems, the act of heredity is actually extremely important. Indeed, in case of a decease, financial institutions are legally obliged to block all the bank accounts and deposit boxes that the deceased owned. Only an act of heredity (or, if applicable, a certificate of inheritance) will unfreeze the accounts. On one condition: the decease nor his/her heirs must not have any tax liabilities. If it is the case, they must be covered before the accounts may be unblocked. Thanks to the act of heredity, banks will know directly who may inherit, what and in which proportion. The notary, together with the deceased’s partner, can then ask for the amounts available on the various accounts to be unfrozen. Those amounts will either be made available to the deceased’s partner and heirs or controlled by the notary until the succession is settled.


That’s not all!

During this second appointment, the notary will also have the opportunity to advise the heirs on the need to compile an inventory of the properties and goods. Indeed, it is not mandatory, except for some specific situations. Nevertheless, the heirs always have the right to ask for such an inventory. Furthermore, the notary will suggest the possibility to refuse the inheritance, if they are too many liabilities or if the heirs wish to have their own children inherit directly. Finally, the notary will also discuss various options with the deceased’s partner. Indeed, if nothing has been prepared (will, donation, marriage contract...) and if the pair has had children, they must determine what the partner may inherit “with usufruct” or “with bare ownership” rights. Of course, the notary will be able to advise the partner and the heirs if needed. He will also inform everyone of the impact of each decision made.

Check out all the articles from our series "Effective Succession Handling":

  1. Succession handling (1/5): The Notary
  2. Succession handling (2/5): The Inheritance File
  3. Succession handling (3/5): The Act of Heredity
  4. Succession handling (4/5): The Inheritance Tax Return
  5. Succession handling (5/5): The Distribution of Property