The settlement of an estate is complicated. When one of the heirs is a minor, it becomes even more complex. In this blog, Loïs Lok of GMW lawyers answers the 6 most frequently asked questions about minors and inheritance.
1. How can a minor become an heir?
According to the law, a minor becomes an heir when both parents have passed away. There are also other ways in which a minor can become an heir, for example when one of their parents is no longer living and a grandparent dies. The minor then “takes the place” of their deceased parent in the legacy of their grandparent. In addition, a minor heir can be appointed as heir in a will.
2. Can a minor accept or reject a legacy?
A minor cannot accept or reject a legacy by themselves. Instead, their legal representative can accept or reject a legacy on behalf of the minor. In general, the legal representative(s) of the minor is/are the parent(s). If both parents are deceased, the legal representative may be, for example, an uncle or aunt who has been appointed as a guardian.
3. What options does the legal representative have?
The legal representative only has two options: to accept the estate on behalf of the minor beneficially (without being liable for the debts), or to reject it. Pure acceptance (acceptance of income and debts) is not possible for a minor heir. By excluding pure acceptance, the minor is prevented from becoming liable for the debts of the estate.
4. How can a legal representative accept/reject the inheritance?
A legal representative who wishes to accept or reject an inheritance on behalf of a minor beneficiary must make a statement to the sub-district court. This declaration must be made within three months from the time the estate (or a share thereof) is due to the minor. If this period of three months is exceeded, the inheritance will be deemed to have been accepted by the minor beneficiary.
If a legal representative rejects an inheritance on behalf of a minor, a statement to the sub-district court is not sufficient; an authorisation from the sub-district court will be required.
5. When does the sub-district court issue an authorisation to reject an inheritance?
The sub-district court judge will only grant an authorisation to reject an inheritance if this is in the interests of the minor. This is the case, for example, when the estate is negative. The sub-district court judge may refuse to authorise rejection if the inheritance appears to be positive.
Incidentally, it regularly occurs that the application for an authorisation to reject an inheritance is submitted within the aforementioned three month period, but that the sub-district court judge only makes a decision after this period has expired. For the question of whether the declaration of rejection has been made within the three month period, the date on which the request for a refusal authorisation was submitted to the sub-district court is decisive.
6. How can the legal representative reject an inheritance if the minor lives abroad, or if foreign law applies to the inheritance?
If the minor has his normal residence abroad, it must be investigated whether a Dutch cantonal judge can issue an authorisation to reject an estate to which Dutch law applies. Whether the sub-district court has jurisdiction to do so depends, among other things, on the country where the minor has his habitual residence. For each case, it must therefore be investigated whether international treaties or regulations apply, and if so, which ones.
Help with inheritance for minors
Do you need help with rejecting or accepting a legacy on behalf of a minor? Or do you have other questions about this subject? Please feel free to contact GMW lawyers; we’ll be glad to help you.
Author: Loïs Lok