Dutch Death and Taxes: Where There’s a Will There’s a Lawyer

This week has seen the Captain and I have our annual meeting with our Dutch and US accountants – enough angst to put both of us in need of a long vacation somewhere warm, with hammocks, and 24-hour room service.

The Captain had taken a days vacation to attend the meeting and we decided in a moment of exceptional time management to schedule an appointment with a Dutch lawyer on the same day, to draw up a Dutch will.

You may be sat there with a smug sense of being ahead of us, thinking, ‘we have a Will, we are fine’. Trust me, if it’s not Dutch and you’re living in the Netherlands then it’s not valid.

We were told by the lawyer that we may have a last Will and Testament from any other country in the world but it will not be recognised by the Dutch authorities. I’m not sure if this is entirely true – do some internet research and opinions seem to differ.

The expat rumour mill is full of conspiracy theories – die here and the authorities will tax everything you own at 100% and take your children (under 18) into the care of the state until the mess you have left is resolved. A Dutch judge will appoint a guardian and if your children are pre-teens they may will be adults by the time the paperwork is completed, unless they’ve already been sold into slavery or put into pies and eaten.

I can only recount what we were advised by the lawyer. Maybe different scenarios have differing outcomes, we’re still confused.

All we wanted was a basic will (ie inexpensive) where the remaining spouse gets everything on the death of the first, and the kids can divvy up what’s left when the second parent dies. After a heavy morning with the accountants we discussed the will over lunch – we knew what we wanted to do and could be in and out of the lawyer’s office in twenty minutes. How hard could it be?

Our naïvety was astounding.

Of course it isn’t that easy. The lawyer talked at length on how our estate has to be legally divided or ‘labelled’ as he preferred to call it. It seems the children have rights where an inheritance is concerned – we can’t disown them when they go against our sage wisdom and advice or elope with unsuitable partner.

This came as rather a shock. In Dutch law our children have rights. How had this been allowed to happen in a civilised society? The threat of a lost inheritance through bad choices on their part is the only weapon we have these days, and a pretty feeble one at that.

I admit I did lose the plot a couple of times and faded off into a mind fog, but was pulled back by the look of absolute concentration on the Captain’s face – we needed two of us focused on this.

The lawyer was drawing intricate diagrams with a multitude of intersecting lines on a large legal pad outlining various scenarios of what money would go where depending who died first and how all that would change again on the death of the second spouse. It looked more like a design plan for a space shuttle than an explanation of inheritance laws.

Half way through the meeting it dawned on us this was very similar to the Napoleonic code of inheritance followed in the state of Louisiana which, obviously, was based on the French system. We breathed a sigh of relief, back in a zone not entirely comfortable but not as alien as we’d thought. Pretty darn complicated though.

We should have the paperwork through by next week and have asked for a translated copy just to make sure we are signing the document we think we are. For all we know we could end up leaving everything to the Dutch Law Society Christmas Party Fund. The translation will cost more than the Will, which in itself is pretty steep.

By the time we left the building our brains were mush and there was still a blog to write. Hence the Tylenol and Pinot.

We have not told our children they have a guaranteed inheritance, because as of right now we are worth more to them dead than alive, and Harry has his sights set on a very expensive college…


‘If you are resident in the Netherlands when you die, Dutch Inheritance Tax will be due ON YOUR WORLD WIDE ASSETS… as a result, your assets may be subject to double or even triple taxation.’

Taken from an information booklet published by:                                                                    Pels Rijcken and Droogleever
Advocaten en notarissen
Den Haag



About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
This entry was posted in Dutch Culture, Dutch Laws, Taxes and Bureaucracy, Expat Experiences, Family Life, The Netherlands and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dutch Death and Taxes: Where There’s a Will There’s a Lawyer

  1. aurom says:

    hi there –
    would it be possible to get a copy of this booklet somewhere?

    it’d be useful reading material before contacting the notary for the will…


  2. Michele Aime says:

    Thanks for this. Do you have an update on the last will and testament: do we have to go to a notaris and what did it cost all in all (ball park figure ) if you wouldnt mind sharing?)

  3. Jane says:

    I went to a whole presentation on this with Passionate Parenting http://www.passionateparenting.nl/.

    Now, where is that handout…

    • wordgeyser says:

      Thanks for the website Jane – I have the handout but not the website. Think I’d better include it in the body of the blog as we all know this is a huge issue

  4. wordgeyser says:

    For the serious record, and I quote
    “If you are resident in the Netherlands when you die, Dutch Inheritance Tax will be due ON YOUR WORLD WIDE ASSETS……as a result, your assets may be subject to double or even triple taxation.” Ouch.
    Pels Rijcken and Droogleever.
    Advocaten en notarissen
    Den Haag

  5. Ellen Worling says:

    I feel a headache coming on just thinking about this. We too have not done a “Dutch” will, still have one from Ontario over 10 years old. SSSS air going out of me as I realize we really do need to do this. 😦 Blah.

  6. Laughed throughout this (sorry, it was WITH you, not AT you). We don’t even have familiarity with the Napoleonic Code going for us. But you do raise a great point about having a Dutch will. I’ll be damned if our money goes to the Dutch state OR the Dutch Legal Society Christmas Party Fund!

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