What happens in practice at your BNP Paribas Fortis branch?

A. The bank's obligations

Freezing the assets of the deceased and his or her spouse

When a customer of the bank dies, his or her assets become temporarily unavailable:

  • to protect the interests of all heirs;
  • to safeguard the rights of the tax administration.


This has a number of consequences:

  • As soon as the bank is informed of the death, the deceased's safe and accounts can no longer be used, regardless of the legal marriage arrangement between the spouses. 
  • Since 1 July 2012, the bank can only release assets from an estate when it has a deed/certificate of succession that confirms that the testator and his heirs no longer have any outstanding debts to the tax administration and/or social security department.
    If there are outstanding debts, these must be paid before the bank can release the estate assets to the heirs.
    The bank would be personally responsible if it were to release the estate assets without a deed/certificate of succession. In that case, the bank would have to pay the legally owed tax and/or social security debts itself up to the amount of the assets released to the debtors.
  • However, the bank can make funds available to cover a number of costs pending the deed/certificate of succession, subject to a number of conditions. The provided money can be used to cover the funeral expenses, costs related to the last illness and a number of expenses related to the final residence. Pending the deed/certificate of succession and again under certain conditions, the bank can also release an advance to the surviving spouse or legally cohabiting partner. This advance must not exceed EUR 5,000 and must not be greater than half of the assets in the current and savings accounts on the day the partner passed away. 


  • The law provides a double sanction if this rule is not respected:
    • The loss of any share in the joint net assets, joint ownership or inheritance to the amount withdrawn in excess of EUR 5,000.
    • Forfeit of the ability to waive the inheritance or to accept it under beneficium intervarii (acceptance of an estate without liability for debts greater than the assets inherited).


You can rest assured. Despite the temporary unavailability of the accounts, your branch will offer you solutions to avoid any financial worries:

  • The surviving spouse can open a new current account and have the advance paid into it to meet the day-to-day expenses.
  • Under certain conditions, certain bills, such as the funeral costs and medical expenses, can be paid immediately at the request of an heir or the notary dealing with the inheritance. These bills will be paid directly to the creditor provided that there are sufficient funds and the branch concerned agrees. It is important to keep all the original invoices, as they must be included in the declaration of estate to substantiate the expenses incurred.

Sending a list of the assets of the deceased and his or her spouse to the registration authorities

When one of their customers and/or his or her spouse, resident in Belgium, dies, banks must prepare a list of all amounts and securities they hold on behalf of the deceased and his or her spouse, in application of the Belgian Inheritance Tax Code. They must send this list to the registration authorities before paying, transferring or returning these assets to the heirs, legatees, donors and others with a claim on them.
This list shows the position at 00.00 am on the day of death.

At the time of settlement, insurance firms must also send a list to the registration authorities for tax purposes. This list should include all life insurance products related to the death and paid to the beneficiaries.

B. What inheritance settlement formalities are there?

  • The document for notifying the bank of the death
    In order to declare the death to , you must have a copy of the death certificate (issued by the registry office of the borough where the death took place, which is not necessarily the borough where the deceased resided. In the event of death abroad, you can contact the Belgian consulate or embassy.


  • Documents for settling the succession
    Depending on the financial and family situation of the deceased, will tell you what documents are needed to identify the heirs and settle the succession.


  • Formalities for specific cases
    Moreover, certain specific situations – matrimonial division of property, will, death after an accident and so on – require additional formalities. Contact  for further details. 

C. How will the assets be settled?

As soon as all the documents have been produced, will settle the bank assets in accordance with the joint instructions of the heirs or those of the notary mandated by them to liquidate the estate.
A number of matters will be dealt with at a meeting arranged with  :


  • Safe-deposit facilities
    After receiving all the documents required,  will set a date for opening the safe-deposit boxes in coordination with the heirs or their representative(s) and, where relevant, the notary.
     must inform the registration authorities before the date set for opening the safe-deposit boxes.
    If the key has not been found or if the heirs do not know the secret code, the boxes will have to be drilled.
    When a safe-deposit box is opened an inventory of its contents must be drawn up. The inventory is prepared by an employee of  and is signed by all those present.
    It can also be drawn up by a notary. All heirs must be present or must mandate someone to represent them by proxy.
    If not, the safe-deposit box cannot be opened.
    After the inventory for tax purposes has been drawn up, the contents are, as a rule, at the disposal of the heirs.
  • Borrowings
     will check whether loan protection insurance was taken out when agreeing a loan repayable in instalments or a credit facility. If not, the heirs must continue the repayments or reimburse the outstanding balance in one go.
    If the deceased had guaranteed any loans, the guarantee will be transferred to the heirs. If the borrower does not fulfil his or her obligations, the heirs will have to assume the obligations of the deceased under the guarantee.
  • Insurance
    • Life insurance: Any life insurance shall be settled in favour of the beneficiaries stated in the policy. If there is no named or identifiable beneficiary, the estate will be the beneficiary.
    • Household insurance: A new policy must be taken out on behalf of one of the heirs to ensure uninterrupted protection of the real-estate assets while awaiting a decision on what is to be done with them. The other heirs are automatically co-insured. If the deceased was a joint insurance policyholder, there will be no need to take out a new policy, as the insurance will remain in effect in the name of the holder. The premium payment direct debit would simply need to be amended, if necessary.
    • Motor or family insurance: Depending on the situation, the policy is continued in the name of the surviving spouse, a new one would be taken out, or the policy would terminate. 
  • Investments
    A meeting with   is recommended to see if the investment plans and objectives and the investor profile of the deceased match those of the surviving spouse or other heirs. If certain investments are to be realised, their sale must be planned carefully, as a number of factors can have a major effect on the outcome, including timing and the supply on the financial market. 

After losing a spouse, there comes a time when you have to face a series of very specific questions relating to the family home, the couple's accounts, payment of a pension and so on.

  • Death duty payment
    Sometimes the deceased person leaves a considerable real-estate inheritance but little cash, which creates a problem when it comes to paying death duties (inheritance tax).
    Unless there was a life insurance policy to deal with this, the sale of a real-estate asset would be one possible solution – but not the only one. Selling securities or taking out a loan could be attractive alternatives, depending on your financial, family or tax situation.
  • Your income and expenses

    After the death of your spouse, the amount of your income or pension may decrease significantly, unlike certain large outgoings such as heating, rent, insurance policies and property taxes. So you may have to review your budget.

  • Your investments
    Depending on your new situation, will offer to check your investor profile. This profile and the suggestions of  will help you to clarify your long-term perspective and to adapt your investments to your current and future requirements. You could, for example, decide to supplement your pension with income from your investments.
    You can also check whether you need to supplement your family insurance, health-related insurance – hospitalisation, accident, long-term care, etc. – and other policies.
  • Your home and real-estate assets
    The law provides for protection of the surviving (married) spouse by guaranteeing him or her a minimum usufruct of the family home and furnishings. This guarantee also applies to a legal cohabitant unless the deceased had disinherited the surviving cohabitant in a will.
    Having usufruct involves being able to occupy the property yourself (or let it out and receive the rent) for the rest of your life.
    If you wanted to sell, you would of course have to limit yourself to the assets you own in full or reach an agreement with the "bare owners" (owners without usufruct).
    Under no circumstances can they force you to sell the family home of which you are usufructuary.
What happens in practice at your branch