An inheritance, also referred to as an estate, comprises the passive and active components or debts and possessions that constitute the assets of a deceased person (the testator) at the time of his or her death.
CERTIFICATE OF INHERITANCE OR SUCCESSION
A certificate of inheritance or succession must be drawn up by the civil-law notary or by the heirs themselves. This certificate clearly states to whom the estate shall belong and in what amount. This certificate can be used by the heirs to have the bank release the funds in the testator’s accounts.
DECLARATION OF INHERITANCE
The heirs must also submit a declaration of inheritance to the Flemish Tax Administration (Vlaamse Belastingdienst, VLABEL) to be used by VLABEL to calculate the inheritance tax owed.
DIVISION OF THE ESTATE
In practice, the main points of discussion between heirs are, on the one hand, the validity of the will and, on the other hand, the composition of the estate.
One of the heirs may be able to prove that the testator was no longer of sound mind when his/her will was drawn up. However, the burden of proof on an heir claiming invalidity of a will is very heavy, so these proceedings require extremely careful preparation.
Another frequent point of discussion between heirs concerns the composition of the estate. This is particularly the case when reservatory heirs or legally protected heirs are concerned.
Reservatory heirs are entitled to a legally-protected share of the estate from which no deviations can be made, neither by way of a will nor by way of gifts during their lifetime.
If, for instance, the testator had made substantial donations during his/her lifetime and these would have compromised the inheritance rights of a reservatory heir, it would be possible for this heir to object to the donation.
‘If an heir and a testator have become estranged, or another heir has adopted a prominent role in the testator’s life during his/her last years, one may be confronted with a quasi-empty estate at the time of death. It is therefore not inconceivable that considerable sums have been given away or donated by the testator or his/her trustee.