- burial or cremation?
- choice of funeral ritual
Immediately following the death
Immediately after the death, a doctor must confirm the death. The doctor will prepare a medical death certificate. This will state the date and time of death, as well as the cause of death.
The next of kin of the deceased may themselves report the death to the registry office (Dutch: burgerlijke stand) of the municipality and arrange the funeral. You can also engage a funeral director to handle all the funeral arrangements and administration.
The death must be reported to the registry office of the municipality in which the person died.
Arranging the funeral
The deceased may have had specific wishes concerning burial or cremation:
- the deceased may have already prepared the funeral, possibly through a funeral director
- the deceased may have given you specific instructions
- the deceased may have lodged a last will and testament with the municipality
- the deceased may have stated their wishes in a will.
In the latter case, however, it is possible that the funeral will not proceed according to the wishes of the deceased, since a will is usually not opened until after the funeral, and the next of kin do not always know the wishes concerning burial or cremation in advance.
Notifying the bank
The heirs must themselves contact every bank where the deceased had funds, such as bank accounts, savings accounts, deposit books, safes, etc. The bank is then legally obliged to block these funds. The block prevents any further sums from being withdrawn without the consent of all the heirs of the deceased. You may possibly not be fully informed about the banking affairs of the deceased. The Belgian Bankers' and Stockbroking Firms' Association (Dutch: Belgische Vereniging van Banken en Beursvennootschappen) can help you find what you are looking for ((opent in nieuw venster)).
The bank must draw up a list of all the funds held and send it to the Administration of Registration (Dutch: Administratie der Registratie). Later, on the basis of this list, it will be checked whether everything is included in the declaration of estate.
The funds can be unblocked when the bank is officially informed of the legal heirs of the deceased. This can be done by means of:
- a certificate of succession issued by the collector of taxes of a registry office
- OR a deed of succession drawn up by the notary, if a certificate of succession is not sufficient.
When the bank releases the funds, all the heirs must be present in person or by proxy.
Pending the unblocking of the funds, the bank may make money available to the next of kin to cover a number of expenses. Some conditions apply.
- This money is intended for such things as funeral expenses, costs related to the last illness, costs related to the last place of residence, etc.
- Under certain conditions, the bank may also give an advance to the surviving spouse or legally cohabiting partner.
Other bodies to be informed
You will probably have to notify numerous bodies of the death of your relative. Besides the municipality and the bank, you should also inform the following bodies:
- the deceased’s employer, if the deceased was still working
- the health insurance fund
- the Vehicle Registration Service (Dutch: Dienst voor Inschrijving van Voertuigen/DIV).
- If the deceased owned a car or other vehicle, the number plate must be returned to the Vehicle Registration Service (DIV).
- If your partner has died, you can take over the number plate if you were married or legally cohabiting. The number plate can also be taken over by one of your children. In that case, too, you must inform the DIV so that the car can be registered in your name or in your child's name.
- the insurance company/companies from which the deceased had taken out insurance
- a notary, e.g. if there is a will, an agreement as to succession, a contractual appointment of heirs or a marriage contract.
Consulting a notary
You can engage a notary, if necessary. The notary will firstly investigate whether the deceased has consolidated final wishes in a will. Only when that has been checked can he or she determine who is entitled to which part of the estate.
The notary collects information on the entire contents of the estate. He or she advises the next of kin concerning the estate, such as the possibility to refuse or accept the estate under beneficium inventarii (benefit of the inventory).
Applying for a survivor's pension
In certain cases, a widow or widower may be entitled to a survivor's pension ((opent in nieuw venster)). The survivor's pension is calculated on the basis of the working career of the deceased spouse.
If the deceased has not drawn up a will or a marriage contract, the law designates the heirs. The legislator has drawn up a ranking and classified the heirs into four orders according to blood relationship. A higher order always excludes a lower one. Within the order, the degree determines whether or not you inherit.
Besides the legislation, everyone has a certain freedom to arrange his or her estate by a will, marriage contract, cohabitation contract or gifts.
If you have inherited something from someone who was resident in Belgium, you will be liable to pay inheritance tax. On the basis of a declaration of estate, the collector of taxes will calculate the tax due and determine the share of each heir.