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New inheritance laws explained during Estate Planning for Expats
Two months ago, Belgium’s inheritance laws changed. Having been the same for many years, the changes saw notaries working overtime to learn the new regulations and explain them to the wealth of families concerned that their current estate plans might no longer serve their needs.
To help wade through the changes and to get you started thinking about your own assets and to whom they will be left, ING bank and The Bulletin are hosting the free event Estate Planning for Expats in Belgium. The event on 7 December is entirely in English and specifically geared toward expats, with information on the new inheritance laws and estate tax planning.
According to Zeno De Bock of Berquin Notaries, who will speak at the event, estate planning can be more challenging for expats than for Belgian natives. “An international element is added to the equation,” he says. “This can be family living abroad, but also possessing assets situated abroad.”
This means that two (or more) countries need to be included when considering the legal aspects of inheritance as well as marriage. “While the planning done here is in accordance with Belgian law, you need to know if it is enforceable and practical when confronted with a foreign legal system.”
Two or more children? Big decisions
As for Belgium’s new inheritance laws, they allow for more flexibility in the case of parents of two or more children. The previous law stipulated that children had to inherit equally. If there was just one child, one-half of the estate had to go to that child, while the rest could be freely distributed.
If there were two children, for instance, each child had to get at least one-third, and so on, depending on the number of children. The new law allows a parent to choose how to distribute half of the assets before the children inherit.
“No matter how many children the deceased leaves behind, the deceased may always distribute half of all the assets freely,” explains De Bock. “In a case where there are two or more children, this change allows much greater freedom to the parent.”
The new law also touches on assets. Whereas previously assets – an apartment, say – had to be split up between all the children equally, now only the value of the asset has to be split. The apartment can be left to one child, in other words, who must then buy the others out.
Also on 1 September, matrimonial property laws changed in Belgium, and De Bock will go over those changes as well. They “clarify certain property aspects of being married and allow partners to alter financial aspects of marital contracts”.
Other speakers at the estate planning event are Marc Quaghebeur of Cabinet DAVID, who will discuss tax issues following the death of a family member, and Dave Deruytter of ING with a talk on financial planning priorities. A reception will follow the event.
Estate Planning for Expats in Belgium, 7 December 17.30-20.30, ING, Avenue Marnix 24, 1000 Brussels. Free, but registration is required
Photos: Getty Images