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Reform of the Belgian law of succession

Market: Belgium (available in english, dutch and french)

Head and arm of a "Lady Justice" statue holding balance scales.

A reform of the law of succession was published in a bill submitted to the Parliament in January 2017. It is expected to be voted on at the end of this year with entry into force scheduled for one year later.

The current law of succession is contained in the Civil Code of 1804. However, social reality has changed as the understanding of a conventional family of married parents with children has evolved.

Concrete proposals

1. Forced heirship rules:

The children, the surviving spouse, and, in the absence of children, the (grand)parents, are entitled to a fixed portion of the estate of the deceased. They are protected against gifts in excess of the freely disposable portion of the estate made by the deceased.

Currently

The reserved portion of the estate for the children varies depending on the number of children.

In future

The reserved portion of the estate will be half of the estate.
The freely disposable portion will be the other half of the estate, whatever the number of children.

⇒ The deceased will have more freedom to make a gift to a third party or to one, specific child.

2. Consequence of the amendment of the reserved portion of the estate:

Currently

Children will inherit from their reserved portion of the estate with unrestricted ownership

In future

Children will inherit from their reserved portion of the estate with unrestricted ownership.

⇒The surviving spouse will exercise his or her usufruct right over the freely disposable portion.

Currently

In principle, the reserved portion of the estate is a portion of the estate composed of goods.

In future

The reserved portion of the estate will be expressed in value.

⇒ More security for beneficiaries in the case of gifts in excess of the freely disposable portion of the estate: Retains the property but pays an amount in value.

3. Portion for (grand)parents:

Currently

Exists

In future

Will be repealed and replaced in case of financial insufficiency of the (grand) parents by a maintenance obligation in the estate.

4.Valuation of gifts:

Currently

L'évaluation des donations faites aux héritiers se fait de différentes façons, selon qu'il s'agit d'un don de biens meubles ou immeubles.

In future

The same rules of valuation will apply to the calculation of the reduction of gifts to obtain the reserved portion of the estate.
⇒ Simplified and standardised.

The differentiation will be made only at the time of the gift.

5. Succession agreements:

Currently

Prohibited

In future

It will be possible to draw up a “global succession agreement” binding between parents and children. (family inheritance agreement)

Further, a number of “specific agreements” will be authorised:
Arrangements on the value of goods gifted, renunciation by a presumed heir of his or her future inheritance rights, granting additional capital to a child with needs, concluding agreements on resumption of a family business, etc.

It is likely that certain provisions will be modified because this is a legislative draft.