CNR survey shows 'legitimate portion' under considerable debate

A large proportion of Dutch people no longer take it for granted that children inherit from their parents if the parents do not want them to. This is according to the research report by the Centre for Notarial Law and Netwerk Notarissen. However, the Inheritance Act states that children are entitled to their legitimate portion if a parent dies. This is also the case if parents have included in their will that the child does not inherit or inherits less or have made gifts to others. The legitimate portion is an established fact in any inheritance from someone who has children.


The general conception of the legitimate portion is in flux, saw the Centre for Notarial Law and Netwerk Notarissen. Therefore, they conducted a poll among the Dutch people and inheritance law professionals, such as lawyers and notaries. The surveys show that a large proportion of the Dutch want to abolish or limit the legitimate portion by changing the rules. "We think it is about time to start discussing what the Dutch want with the legitimate portion" say Freek Schols and Lucienne van der Geld. Earlier, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker said he would not investigate further the usefulness and necessity of the legitimate portion and would wait for the research report.

Full disinheritance not possible

In your will, you determine who your heirs are and what they get. "You can also disinherit your children.  But that does not automatically mean that a disinherited child gets nothing," explains Lucienne van der Geld. Van der Geld is director of Netwerk Notarissen and a lecturer in notarial law. This is because a child can always claim its so-called 'legitimate portion'. And if this is done in time and according to the rules, the disinherited child will still receive a sum of money from the inheritance. This is half of what a child would receive if no will had been made at all. "We see in practice that parents - for various reasons - do not want a child to inherit. For example, because contact has broken down or because they believe they have already helped the child financially enough."

Not desirable in current form

The Centre for Notarial Law and Netwerk Notarissen investigated how the Dutch public currently views this legitimate portion. A survey showed that a sizable portion does not want to keep the legitimate portion, at least not as it is currently designed in law. The group that does not want to completely abolish the legitimate portion would, for example, only want a legitimate portion for minor children. For example, if these children need the money for care, upbringing, maintenance and study. Or if they fall below subsistence level when the parent dies.

Professor of Notarial Law Freek Schols, also chairman of the Centre for Notarial Law, says: "The research results confirm our view that the legitimate portion as we know it today cannot count on a very large amount of sympathy. A tailored and nuanced variant for children who need it seems much more appropriate." This picture also emerges from surveys conducted among notaries, lawyers and other professionals in the field of inheritance. The research report discusses in detail the results of the surveys conducted and all the results of the surveys can be read.

Safety net for young people

The researchers see in the surveys, but also in the broader research they conducted on the legitimate portion, a need for a safety net for young people who would run into problems with living expenses or studies, for example, if a parent dies. "There is already a basic provision for this in the law called 'lump sum'. This includes a sum of money from the inheritance for care, upbringing, living expenses and study. But this could be further and better elaborated," says Van der Geld. "So abolishing the legitimate portion does not mean that children can be left out in the cold financially and parents can shirk their responsibilities. The lump sum from the estate is much more sophisticated than the crude legitimate portion and more justifiable," Schols adds.

But above all, Schols and Van der Geld argue, it is important to have a thorough discussion on whether it is still of this time to have a legitimate portion. The Centre for Notarial Law and Netwerk Notarissen want to continue contributing to this discussion and have launched a website. The report was published on Updates will be posted on this site and further research will be published.

The research has been presented to the Ministry of Justice and Security and Minister Dekker.

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Centre for Notarial Law