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Last will and testament

You are free to decide yourself what is to happen to your body after your death. You can have that choice registered in your last will and testament, a document which you can request from the Civil Affairs Office (Dutch: Dienst Burgerzaken) in your municipality.

In the last will and testament, you can indicate:

  • whether you choose a burial or cremation
  • what should happen with your ashes after cremation
  • according to which belief system the funeral ceremony, if any, should be held
  • in which municipality your final resting place will be (in Belgium or abroad)
  • and whether you have a funeral contract.

For every death, the municipality will check whether the deceased has registered a last will and testament.

Procedure

How can I have a last will and testament drawn up?

You submit a signed and dated statement to the Civil Affairs Office of your municipality. This statement will be registered in the population register and you will be issued with a receipt.

Many municipalities have a form available on their website. An example of a last will and testament can be found on the website of the Agency for Home Affairs (Dutch: Agentschap Binnenlands Bestuur). Contact your municipality for more information.

What are the legal possibilities following a death?

You can opt for burial or cremation. You can indicate whether the cremation will be followed by:

  • burial of the ashes within a cemetery
  • placing of the ashes in an urn wall (columbarium)
  • scattering of the ashes:
    • in a scattering garden on a cemetery
    • in the territorial sea adjacent to the territory of Belgium
  • burial, scattering, or preservation of ashes in a place other than the cemetery. This is only allowed if the deceased has stipulated this in writing, or if there is no last will and testament, at the joint request of the partner and first-degree relatives. For minors, the request of the parents or guardian is required.

How can I specify the ritual I want for the funeral ceremony?

You can have the ritual for the funeral ceremony included in your last will and testament:

  • Catholic religion
  • Protestant religion
  • Anglican religion
  • Orthodox religion
  • Jewish religion
  • Islamic religion
  • Humanist belief
  • Neutral philosophical belief.

Please note that if you have not indicated any specific type of ritual in your last will and testament, that does not mean that you are explicitly indicating that you do not want any specific ritual . For that purpose, it is best to make a separate statement, e.g. with a notary. The disadvantage is that a will is usually not opened until after the funeral has taken place. In that case, the next of kin do not know your wishes about the type of funeral service you want, and may choose another type of service.

Can any changes be made once I have submitted my last will and testament?

You can make changes to your last will and testament at any time by submitting a new application to the Civil Affairs Office. However, your next of kin cannot make any changes to your last will and testament and must respect your last wishes.

May the next of kin keep the ashes of a deceased person after cremation?

The next of kin may keep the ashes. However, at the end of this period of preservation:

  • the ashes must be returned to the cemetery to be buried, placed in a columbarium or scattered
  • or the ashes can be scattered, preserved or buried in an urn made of biodegradable materials in a place other than the cemetery as defined by the municipal council.

Legislation

Decree of 16 January 2004 on cemeteries, burial and cremation

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  • Last revision 24/01/2024
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