After a person's death, there are several ways in which an inheritance might impact you. You may be an heir, you may have been given a legacy, you may have been disowned, an executor or financial guardian may have been appointed, or you may wish to claim a statutory share. In each of these situations, several questions can come up: How is the will to be interpreted? Can the will be challenged? Should it? What are the rights of someone with a statutory share? What are the deadlines for invoking certain rights? What is to be expected from the executor/financial guardian? How to deal with a step-parent and the usufruct on the deceased's home?
In practice, these matters can be quite complicated.
Though inheritance law may appear to have a systematic statutory structure, actual practice is often complicated. One of the reasons is that, due to a divorce, the settlement of an inheritance may involve multiple families. Several of our lawyers are specialised in inheritance law and are happy to offer you advice. They will also gladly support you should the need arise to take the case to court.
Inheritance law is not only complicated on account of the many statutory rules. The emotional aspects of an inheritance sometimes make it difficult to reach a settlement. An inheritance involves matters of mourning and division, but old grievances often resurface as well. Due to the quarrels or disputes caused by this, settlement of the inheritance may not be possible. Different levels of knowledge and expertise among the various heirs can also lead to insecurity or even mistrust, especially where questions of (international) law arise regarding applicable law, provisions regarding the division of the inheritance and the tax consequences, for example when dealing with a business, a second home in France or an apartment in Spain and the mortgage that goes with it. Another issue is how informal care is valued. In such cases, the inheritance mediator could help. All persons involved gather together to discuss the issues, under the guidance of one of our firm's mediators. A joint solution is sought, one that all parties can live with. An advantage of mediation is that it prevents a costly and long-term court case and it preserves the family ties as much as possible.
Opening difficult topics up for discussion
Increasingly, there appears to be a need for people to gather others around and, before dying, tell them what their life has meant to them, and then to deliberate and make arrangements with the prospective heirs, to make sure that everything is in order and quarrels or disputes after one's death are avoided. There is also a need to "finally" discuss difficult subjects or family taboos in a safe environment.
InheritanceInheritance mediation is a means of limiting the conflict without involving a judge, under the direction of a specialised mediator with knowledge of inheritance law and family relationships and who is focused on the issues surrounding death. This is a highly structured process (the larger the group, the more important this becomes). The mediator is impartial and his approach looks to the future. The various stages of the dispute are made explicit and reviewed with a view to a solution, one aligned with the participants' common interests and their futures. Minutes are taken of the process. Decisions are not taken regarding the participants, but by the participants. If needed, additional professionals with specialised knowledge may also be engaged. Also from abroad.
It is important to be aware of the fact that inheritance mediation is also characterised by voluntary participation in discussions and a willingness to deliberate, all, of course, in a confidential setting. It must also be clear that the inheritance mediator does not provide any ready solutions, but guides the parties towards the solution that they themselves must find. The mediator explains to the parties what the consequences of their choices - human, financial and legal - will be and encourages debate between them. The inheritance mediator ensures that the agreements made are legally feasible and sets them down in a written contract.
Feedback shows that a result achieved in such a manner often has a positive effect on the family members' sense of self-worth as well as for their mutual relationships.
"Many thanks for your input. You have been a great help in making me put things into perspective again. Also, thank you for your patience. Whenever I started to doubt or felt insecure, you helped me think and explained the situation to me. That was an enormous help."