The Key Steps of a Succession

While each situation is different, the key steps of a succession process are usually the same. There are three of them and they may all be carried out for free: you simply have to be aware of it and, more importantly, to know how to proceed. Here is a recap of the whole process. 

1. Request a certificate or an act of heredity

To start any succession process, you need one document: a certificate of heredity or, depending on your situation, an act of heredity. Both documents are aptly named: they allow you to prove that you actually are one of the deceased’s heirs and that you are thus allowed to take part in the succession process. 


Do I need a certificate or an act?

Even if both documents have very similar names, you cannot just choose one of them randomly. Rather, your situation will determine if you need a certificate or an act.

Remember, you may ask for a certificate of heredity if you meet the three conditions below:

  • The deceased person did not leave any will or inheritance agreement;
  • The deceased person did not have a marriage agreement or make a donation between spouses;
  • None of the heirs is a minor or is incapacitated.

If one or several conditions are not met, you will have to ask for an act of heredity. 


Where and how to file my request?

If you need a certificate of heredity, you can obtain one for free by filing a request to the Office of Legal Security. You will have to attach the following documents:

  • An original copy of the death certificate;
  • The deceased’s marriage certificate;
  • A copy of the deceased’s close family’s marriage records (if the deceased person leaves no descendants).

By the way, Morning Blue provides you with a free online platform to file a valid request for a certificate of heredity to the Office of Legal Security. Once the request has been sent, via Morning Blue or not, the handling time is about 4 weeks.

Should you need an act of heredity, you will have to seek the help of a notary (and thus pay fees). The notary will need the following elements:

  • An original copy of the death certificate;
  • The deceased’s marriage certificate and marriage agreement (if any);
  • The full identity of the deceased’s heirs;
  • A copy of the will and/or the inheritance agreement and/or the donation between spouses.

Again, via its online platform, Morning Blue helps you gather all the necessary documents and send you request to the notary of your choice, who will then be in charge of your file. 


2. Unblocking bank accounts

Once you have received your certificate or act of heredity, you will be able to have the deceased’s bank accounts unblocked by providing it to the banks. Indeed, the accounts belonging to the deceased are automatically blocked until the identity of the heirs has been checked, to avoid abuses. 


Finding all bank accounts

To unblock the bank accounts, they first need to be identified. Therefore, if you are not certain to know exactly where the deceased person had accounts, or if you don’t know about all the accounts, you can request a research. It will also avoid unclaimed bank accounts, something that happens more often than we may think. 


Draining the accounts

It may also happen that the heirs withdraw money from the deceased’s account(s) before they are blocked, to be able to use it (or to have it out of the succession). Nonetheless, you should note that banks may access the history of the accounts. Therefore, even if the heirs do not directly inform tha banks of the decease, once they have the death certificate, they may check if money has been withdrawn right before or after the decease occurred. In the event of fraud, the culprits may be liable to penalties.

If you fear that you will not be able to pay some bills because the accounts are frozen, do not worry: in the meantime, the bank gives you access to half of the sums available on the accounts (with a maximum set at € 5,000). 


3. Drafting the inheritance tax return

Once you are done with the previous steps, there is still one big chunk ahead: the inheritance tax return. Usually, this document must be filed to the tax authority within 4 months after the decease. It determines the total amount of the assets and thus allows to fix the amount of inheritance taxes to be paid. 


Who needs to draw up an inheritance tax return and what does it include?

En principe, tous les héritiers sont tenus de remplir une déclaration de succession, soit ensemble, soit séparément. Il existe toutefois deux exceptions :

  • Si un héritier décide de refuser la succession (pour des raisons personnelles ou parce qu’elle est déficitaire), il n’est plus tenu de remplir une déclaration de succession ;
  • Si la succession ne contient pas de biens immeubles et que son montant n’impose pas le paiement de droits de succession, les héritiers sont alors dispensés de déposer une déclaration de succession.

Dans les grandes lignes, la déclaration de succession reprend les éléments suivants :

  • L’état civil du défunt, les données relatives à son décès et les éventuelles dispositions testamentaires qu’il a laissées ;
  • Les informations sur les héritiers ;
  • Les éventuelles donations réalisées dans les trois années précédant le décès ;
  • Les actifs du défunt (tout ce qu’il possédait) ;
  • Le passif du défunt (ses dettes) ;
  • Les assurances souscrites par le défunt. 

Avant de vous lancer dans la rédaction de votre déclaration de succession, assurez-vous donc d’avoir tous ces éléments à portée de main. 

Normally, the heirs are all obliged to file an inheritance tax return, together or individually. Yet, there are two exceptions:

  • If an heir decides to refuse the succession (no matter the reason), he does no longer have to draft an inheritance tax return;
  • If the succession does not contain any immovable asset and if no inheritance taxes are due, the heirs may be exempted from filing an inheritance tax return.

To sum up, the inheritance tax return includes the following:

  • The deceased’s civil status, information regarding his decease and the contents of his will (if applicable);
  • Information regarding the heirs;
  • Donations made three years or less before the death (if applicable);
  • The assets of the deceased;
  • The deceased’s liabilities;
  • The deceased’s purchased insurances.

Before you start filling in your inheritance tax return, please make sure that you have all those elements within reach. 


Do I need the help of a notary?

Drafting an inheritance tax return may be difficult. Yet, it is possible to do it on your own, for free. To do so, Morning Blue provides you with an online free platform that guides you through the various steps and allows you to send your inheritance tax return to the tax administration. You may also ask for more support and help if you wish.

In the case of rather complex succession procedures, the help of a notary will be much needed. You can always contact the Monring Blue team, who will be able to put you in contact with a notary. 


Inheritance taxes?

Once your inheritance tax return has been filled in and filed, inheritance taxes will be calculated. Remember that the vary between regions and that there are different tax brackets, depending on the net amount of assets (after the liabilities have been withdrawn). Moreover, they depend on the relationship between the heir and the deceased. To give you an idea:

  • In Wallonia, the inheritance taxes vary between 3 and 27% for direct descendants (spouse, legal partner, children and grandchildren) and between 20 and 80% for the other heirs;
  • In Flanders, the inheritance taxes vary between 3 and 27% for direct descendants (spouse, legal partner, children and grandchildren) and between 25 and 55% for the other heirs;
  • In Brussels, the inheritance taxes vary between 3 and 30% for direct descendants (spouse, legal partner, children and grandchildren) and between 20 and 80% for the other heirs. 


To sum up

As you will have understood by now, a succession process is long and made up of several steps. There are three key steps, but other “secondary” steps may also occur in between. Nevertheless, you will also have understood that, depending on your situation, you may settle a succession for free and without necessarily seek the help of a notary: you simply need to know how to proceed. Furthermore, if you have any question regarding your situation or if you have to deal yourself with a succession procedure, do not hesitate to make use of our free online tools or to contact our team to ask for support.