We prefer to avoid complex estates by creating a suitable structure of (international) residence (international mobility), asset management (family governance), estate planning and the transfer of assets to family members, employees or social organizations, customized wills and proper communication on these issues during life (succession planning).
Where proper navigation during life has been lacking, a complex estate may be the result. Navigating complex estates requires both minimizing taxes and legal disadvantages and handling potential disputes arising from the deceased's estate.
Case: Settle an international estate without inheritance tax burden or double taxation?
The estate of a person with an international lifestyle who has assets and real estate in several countries raised questions about the applicability of international law and potential tax obligations in different countries. It required navigating three different tax and legal systems, including the Netherlands, with substantial risks of double taxation. The estate was finally settled internationally without any inheritance tax burden. The relationship between the family members remained harmonious and amicable throughout the navigation process.
Navigating disputes over a deceased's estate
Disputes over a deceased's estate are damaging and often arise from a complex family history. Accepting each other's perspective and working on tax optimization can be an excellent framework to get the family to support a strategy. Nonetheless, legal action may be necessary to obtain one's right or reach a settlement. More and more legal action is taken based on the interpretation of wills and their alleged invalidity based on incapacity or fraud.
A dispute over the estate of a person with an international lifestyle who has assets and dwellings in several countries requires a strategic vision that brings together international private law, different legal cultures, and tax law. According to the deceased's last will, everything was to be left to a charitable foundation that was to be established in the Netherlands. Members of the testator’s family contested the legal validity of the will before an English court. From a practical standpoint, a will is a lot easier to invalidate based on incapacity and similar legal grounds in common law jurisdictions than in our legal system, where civil law notaries have an important supervisory role and, by extension, there is more legal certainty.
Against this background we started parallel proceedings in the Netherlands on behalf of the foundation to confirm the legal validity of the will and the establishment of the foundation in the Netherlands. A case was brought to court in the UK to determine the forum conveniens, with the question as to whether the proceedings were allowed to continue in the Netherlands. After the court in the UK had ruled that the foundation was allowed to conduct proceedings in the Netherlands, the parties settled.