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Unblocking a bank account (certificate of inheritance)

To have a bank account unblocked following a death, you may request a free certificate of inheritance from the FPS for Finance.

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Did you know that you can use eID to sign the request form online and send it to the e-mail of a Legal Security office?

  • Why is a bank account blocked after a death?

    Block by the banking institution

    Upon the death of the owner of an account or safe deposit box, it is not clear who the legal successors are. For this reason, the banking institution (known as the ‘third party holder’ of the assets) blocks the account or safe deposit box.

    Block at the request of the State

    An account or safe deposit box is only blocked at the request of the State if one or more heirs live outside of the European Economic Area.

    If none of the heirs lives outside the European Economic Area, the banking institution is only subject to a reporting obligation: the assets of the deceased or his or her spouse may be paid out or returned once the State has received a list of these assets (known as the ‘201 list’).

    What countries are in the European Economic Area?

    Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

  • How can I have a bank account unblocked?

    You can have a bank account unblocked by presenting one of the following documents:

    • A deed of inheritance, drawn up by a Civil-Law Notary
    • A certificate of inheritance, issued by the Legal Compliance office (Kantoor Rechtszekerheid | Bureau Sécurité juridique | Amt Rechtssicherheit)

    Please note: the ‘declaration of inheritance’ (verklaring van erfrecht | déclaration d’hérédité | Erberklärung) signed by the municipal council in cases of small amounts, and the ‘affidavit of personal knowledge’ (akte van bekendheid | acte de notoriété | Offenkundigkeitsurkunde) drawn up by the justice of the peace cannot be used to unblock an account.

    Helpful tip: as a surviving partner (married or legal partners), you are entitled to an advance payment of up to half of the amount on all accounts, up to a maximum of 5,000 euros, for urgent expenses, without a presenting a certificate or deed of inheritance.

  • How much does a deed or certificate of inheritance cost?

    • The costs of a deed of inheritance drawn up by a Civil-Law Notary include registration fees (50.00 euros), drafting fees (7.50 euros), honoraria and notarial fees of the Civil-Law Notary.
    • A certificate of inheritance issued by the Legal Compliance office is free.
  • How do I request a certificate of inheritance from a Legal Compliance office?

    There are two ways to request a certificate of inheritance.

    1. You can download the request form and submit it online or by post

    By post

    Complete the request form ( Dutch (DOCX, 58.18 KB) | French | German) on your computer, sign it and submit it to a Legal Compliance office, along with the following documents:

    • An original excerpt from the death certificate issued by the municipal council
    • (A copy of) the family book(s) of the deceased (in particular the pages with the identities of the spouses and descendants and indication of a marriage contract)
    • If the deceased does not have any descendants, also a copy of the family book(s) of the parents and any siblings and half-siblings of the deceased

    Online

    You can also use eID to sign the request form and send it to the email of the Legal Compliance office with:

    • A digital excerpt of the death certificate
    • If applicable, photos of the family books sent to the email of the Legal Compliance office

    How do I sign the form with eID? (Dutch | French)

    2. You can contact us by phone or email

    Call +32 (0)2 572 57 57 or send an email to any Legal Compliance office. Depending on the information you have access to at the time, you will receive a request form that is:

    • Not prefilled
    • Partially prefilled
    • Completely prefilled

    If you would like a completely prefilled request form, please submit the documents mentioned in point 1 to the Legal Compliance office.

    Where can I find a Legal Compliance office?

    • Go to our office guide.
    • Under ‘Family’ (Gezin | Famille | Familie), click on ‘Unblock bank account’ (Bankrekening deblokkeren | Débloquer un compte bancaire | Ein Bankkonto entsperren).

    Note: the request form must contain all identifying details of all heirs of the deceased. Your statements on the request form must be correct, and must be affirmed in lieu of an oath.

  • Can the Legal Compliance office always issue a certificate of inheritance?

    No, the Legal Compliance office that manages the file on the deceased can only issue a certificate of inheritance if all of the following conditions are met:

    • The deceased has not drawn up – or had a third party draw up – a will or any other deed with a last will and testament (in other words, the Legal Compliance office can only issue a certificate if the estate is governed exclusively by statutory succession as per the Civil Code).
    • The deceased has not had a marriage contract or ‘deed of amendment to a prenuptial agreement’ (aktewijziging huwelijkse voorwaarden | acte modificatif du contrat de mariage | Abänderungsurkunde des Ehevertrags) drawn up.
    • The deceased has not drawn up – or had a third party draw up – an agreement as to succession.
    • There are no heirs ‘without legal capacity’ (minors, persons declared legally incompetent, etc.).

    In addition, the Legal Compliance office can reject a request for a certificate of inheritance if it cannot identify the heirs with certainty based on the statements submitted and the searches conducted.

  • How does the Legal Compliance office process a request?

    The Legal Compliance office conducts its examination in three steps. This normally takes up to 4 weeks after receipt of the request.

    The Legal Compliance office conducts its examination in three steps

    1. Acceptability check

    The office checks that the form is signed and completed in full.

    2. Authorisation check

    The office checks its own documentation and the Central Will Register (‘CRT’) for any obstacles to granting the request (such as a marriage contract).

    If the office is not authorised to issue a document, it will notify the requesting party. In this case, it will not conduct the third check.

    3. Check for tax, non-tax and social security liabilities

    The Legal Compliance office contacts the tax and social security authorities.

    These authorities check for tax, non-tax or social security liabilities in the name of the deceased and/or the heirs. They have a statutory period of 12 working days to notify the office of any liabilities found.

    Issue of the certificate of inheritance to unblock bank accounts

    It is only possible to unblock bank accounts if the certificate of inheritance includes a statement, for the various heirs, that:

    • the authorities did not report any liabilities for the deceased or the heirs, or
    • any and all liabilities reported have been paid, or
    • any and all liabilities will be paid using the funds on the blocked account(s) before their release. The bank must have the approval of all heirs for this.

    Helpful tip: to speed up estate processing, be sure to pay all tax, non-tax and social security liabilities, such as personal income tax, property tax, vehicle tax, etc., before you request the certificate or deed of inheritance.

    This means not only the tax, non-tax and social security liabilities of the deceased, but also those of the heirs.

  • When will I receive the certificate of inheritance from the Legal Compliance office?

    You should expect to wait around 4 weeks to receive a certificate of inheritance attesting that:

    • the authorities did not report any liabilities, or
    • the liabilities have not yet been paid, or
    • the liabilities have been paid. The office must receive proof of all payments before issuing the documents. If the indicated liabilities are paid after issue of the certificate, you may request an additional certificate from the Legal Compliance office attesting that the liabilities have been paid, provided that you submit the proof of payment to the office (declaration by the creditor that the liabilities in question have been paid up in full).

    This is because the Legal Compliance office cannot issue the certificate indicating the share of each heir in the estate until after:

    • It has examined the submitted documents (death certificate excerpt, etc.) and information.
    • It has requested any additional information.
    • It has reviewed its own documentation.
    • It has consulted the national database.
    • It has received confirmation from the Central Will Register (‘CRT’) that it does not contain any entries in the name of the deceased (typically, the CRT will provide this information one day after receiving the query).
    • It has reported the certificate request to the tax and social security authorities.
    • The 12-day liability reporting period for these authorities has passed.
    • It has received proof of payment for any reported liabilities.
  • Do banks ever require anything in addition to the certificate of inheritance?

    Once all conditions are met and the certificate of inheritance is presented, banks will normally release the funds or assets in the name of the deceased or his or her spouse.

    Helpful tip: as a surviving partner (married or legal partners), you are entitled to an advance payment of up to half of the amount on all accounts, up to a maximum of 5,000 euros, for urgent expenses, without a presenting a certificate or deed of inheritance.

    Please note:

    • A certificate or deed of inheritance is sufficient, but transfer of the funds to the names of the heirs requires everyone to be present or represented by powers of attorney. Please contact your bank to make specific arrangements.
    • Any bank can refuse to accept any certificate of inheritance if the deceased or his or her spouse were renting a safe deposit box.
  • Is it possible to have the bank pay certain ordinary debts before full release of the bank account funds?

    Yes, but under certain conditions. See the detailed explanation on the changes since 1 July 2012 (Dutch | French | German).

  • Any questions?