Write a will

The law lays down rules of intestate succession, i.e., who is entitled to inherit a deceased’s estate.

You can, to some extent, exclude these statutory rules. How? By making a will.

There are various reasons why you might want to depart from the residual regime laid down by law: you may have given favourable treatment to one of your children during your lifetime and want to restore a measure of equality; you may want to give extra help to a child who earns less than the others, or reward one who worked unpaid in the family business for years; you may want to thank someone who gave you special help in your life; you may want to support a charity that is close to your heart, etc.

Whatever your reasons, a clear and unambiguously worded will is a must. The notary can help you with this and ensure that your will is written in legally valid terms. The Notary’s role here is to pre-empt any problems of interpreting your wishes that might arise after your death and any resulting conflicts, and so keep the peace in families.

A will can contain different kinds of provisions:

You might decide to leave all of your property to one or more identified people (universal legacy). You might also wish to reserve a portion of your property for a particular person (general legacy). Or again, you might wish to leave a specific item of property like a painting, a sum of money or a plot of land to a designated beneficiary (specific bequest). You can make these legacies and bequests contingent on costs or conditions.

The Notary can also give you advice on how to optimize your testamentary dispositions. You may, for example, wish to do something for a neighbour who has helped you out on many occasions during your lifetime. Because you have no kinship with your neighbour, they may end up paying quite high inheritance tax. A technique known as the “dual bequest” consists in bequeathing a substantial portion of your estate to a non-profit organization or foundation which is liable only to low inheritance taxes contingent on it paying the full amount of death duty. In this way, you give money to a charity that will enable it to carry on its work while at the same time your neighbour receives more money than if you had appointed him/her sole universal legatee.

There are different kinds of will: holographic wills, notarially-recorded wills and international wills.

A holographic will is one written, dated and signed by the testator in his own handwriting. No other formality is required to make it valid. It also costs nothing to write. The main drawbacks to this type of will are that it may get lost or damaged. It is therefore advisable to give this type of will to your Notary who will notify it to the Central Wills Registry and keep it safe. At the time when the estate passes to the heirs, the Notary instructed by the heirs to gather in the estate will inspect the Registry and can then take account of the will notified

A notarially-recorded will is one which the testator dictates to the Notary in the presence of two witnesses. The advantage of this type of will is that you can benefit from the advice of the Notary who will inform you as to the full implications of your testamentary dispositions. It will also be kept safe and this type of will is very difficult to challenge. The drawback of the notarially-recorded will is the cost of writing a notarized deed.

An international will has to satisfy a number of formalities but has the advantage of being able to be executed in all countries.

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