Van Buttingha Wichers offers specialist services for expats, both private individuals and international companies. We have brought together our services and information resources for expats living and working in the Netherlands in our ‘Expat Desk’, ensuring that our extensive knowledge and expertise is made available to clients in the most efficient and effective manner.
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We are able to discuss your requirements in English, German or Italian. Most of the relevant documents are also available in English. If necessary, we can arrange for documents to be professionally translated, or for a qualified interpreter to be present during the meeting and/or when you sign the documents. We have a responsibility to provide full clarity about the content of legal documents, and it is a responsibility which we take very seriously. We do our utmost to ensure that our clients understand the implications of the documents they sign.
In the Netherlands, a notary (also referred to as civil law notary to distinguish him from a common law notary) is a qualified, university-trained lawyer appointed by the Crown, who has specific tasks and responsibilities. There are certain times at which you need the services of a notary. For example, if you want to conclude a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement, make a will, incorporate a limited company, purchase a house or take out a mortgage loan. In these cases it is mandatory to have the relevant ‘akte’ (deed) prepared by a notary, not only to achieve the intended legal effect but also to ensure legal certainty.
In principle, the notary acts as an impartial advisor, taking all parties’ interests into consideration. However, it is also possible to retain a notary to act solely on your behalf as a ‘party-appointed’ notary. You always have an entirely free choice of notary.
By law, the notary must establish the identity of his clients. When you visit the notary, you should therefore bring valid proof of identity.
Partners can set out the terms of their relationship in a formal agreement. If they intend to live together without getting married, they can enter into a cohabitation agreement. Partners who do marry generally enter into a prenuptial agreement.
These agreements must be drawn up by a notary and the notary will advise both partners about their content and implications. In doing so, he will act as an impartial professional expert and attempt to reach a balanced agreement in which the personal circumstances of both partners are taken into full consideration. If the partners (or one of them) are foreign nationals, certain aspects of international law will be relevant. In some cases, international treaties apply, while in others the national law of the country concerned takes precedence. The notary will usually wish to discuss matters with both partners before preparing a draft agreement. If both partners agree to the content of the agreement, the deed containing the agreement will be signed by both partners and by the notary.
The notary can also offer advice when a relationship breaks down and the partners decide to separate or divorce.
Wills and inheritance law
In the Netherlands, a will must be drawn up and co-signed by a notary. You will be invited to discuss your wishes during a personal interview. Your will establishes who your heirs are. You may also decide to make individual bequests of specific items of property or money to named individuals or organizations. If you wish to appoint an executor, or a guardian to take responsibility for your children, this too must be recorded in the will.
Once your will has been signed, the notary will lodge it with the Central Register of Wills so that it can always be found when it is needed.
Your notary can also advise on the legal validity of a will that has been made in another country. In some cases, it may be necessary to make a separate will in the Netherlands. Such a Dutch will may contain entirely new or only supplementary testamentary dispositions. Personal, tailored advice is essential to ensure that the terms of two or more wills made in different countries do not conflict. On occasion, the notary may wish to consult a colleague in another country. If such external expertise is required, Van Buttingha Wichers can rely on an extensive network of professional advisers throughout the world.
When a person who is domiciled in the Netherlands dies and/or when an estate includes assets in the Netherlands, the services of a Dutch notary are required to wind up the estate. The notary will prepare all necessary documents and will advise the heirs and the executor.
Business and enterprise
There are many ways in which to start or expand a business. Good preparation requires you to consider exactly how you do so and what legal form your company should take. You must also consider aspects such as liability, taxation, governance and control, exit terms and how any disputes are to be resolved.
The notary can help you arrive at appropriate decisions and will work closely with your accountant or tax advisor where appropriate. He will ensure that all required deeds, articles of association and agreements are prepared and will notify the Chamber of Commerce of any changes to the registered details. Moreover, the notary will advise you on how to protect your personal assets (and those of your partner) against business risks. The notary is also your first point of contact for various other aspects of business law, including (cross-border) mergers, demergers, joint ventures and amendments to your company’s articles of association.
Home and mortgage
The notary takes care of all legal aspects of the sale or purchase of a house. His work includes ascertaining the background of the transaction and of the parties involved in the transaction. The notary is also responsible for overseeing the financial arrangements, ensuring that funds are transferred to the bank, the seller and any creditors and, for example, that property transfer tax is paid. The notary ensures, of course, that an equal exchange is made: the purchase price is paid over to the seller only when it is certain that ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer.
The notary will conduct a land registry search and will consult other public registers, such as the insolvency register, the marital property register and the Chamber of Commerce registers. This assures the buyer that the property will indeed be in his legal ownership and that there are no nasty surprises.
If the buyer is financing the purchase by means of a loan, the notary will draw up the necessary mortgage deed. He will arrange for the lender (usually a bank) to make the mortgage amount available on the day that the sale is completed.