Testament

Introduction: Dutch situation

This text applies to people living in the Netherlands who leave an inheritance or make a donation to the foundation.
For drawing up a will in favour of the foundation whereby the place of residence or place of properties lie outside of the Netherlands, we strongly advise consulting a local notary public.

How it can go completely wrong

In the autumn of 2009, the foundation received an inheritance from the late Margareth Briggs from Canada.
Margareth knew Jozef Rulof personally and corresponded with him in writing.
She voluntarily translated a number of books from the Masters into English.
Using the money from her inheritance, the foundation can look towards a hopeful future.
The completion of this inheritance ran very smoothly because Margareth had drawn up a sound will which met all the requirements.
Apparently, she had made sufficient enquires into all the matters which can be described in a will.
However, that same autumn, the foundation also 'received' another inheritance which had a far less positive outcome.
The situation is so distressing that we have decided to make wills a special topic, in the hope that we never have to experience such a situation again.
The completion of this inheritance is a textbook example of how it can go completely wrong ...
The testator in question had drawn up a will in the year 2000, in which she would leave 2/3 of her possessions to Society Spiritual Science Foundation "The Age of Christ".
This lady did not have any children and had not had any contact with her family for years, who in her experience had caused her much suffering.
Everything was arranged properly so far, you would have thought.
A few years after drawing up her will, this lady began to suffer from dementia.
The dementia gradually worsened and a few years later, this lady suffered so much from dementia that she could no longer take care of herself (after cooking, she forgot to turn off the gas, et cetera).
Her neighbour who had been following the progress of her dementia informed her family that she needed help.
Her family replied by telephone that this lady could get lost, they did not want anything to do with her.
The neighbour then consulted a doctor who arranged for this lady to be taken into a care home.
After her death, we hear from a notary public that we have been left an inheritance.
However, the notary public dealing with her will encountered a problem.
It appears that a month before her death all her money was taken out of her bank account.
More than €200,000 had been transferred to her brother's bank account.
After requesting the payment statement, it appeared that the statement had this lady's signature on it.
Together with a lawyer, the notary public researched the whole affair thoroughly, for years.
All the persons involved who were questioned know and state verbally that, towards the end of her life, this lady's dementia was such that she would really no longer have known that she had placed her signature, and would have been even less aware of what she was signing.
During that time, she no longer even recognized her best friends, her neighbour or her family.
When the expert people involved are asked to confirm in writing that this lady had suffered dementia to such a degree that she was no longer aware of what she was doing at all, all these experts refuse to do this and refer to the medical confidentiality.
The family doctor, the doctors treating her in the care home, as well as the admissions committe which made the referral, state that they cannot say anything due to 'privacy legislation'.
Legal research confirms their standpoint: in the Netherlands, 'dementia' belongs under medical confidentiality, so you will not get a confirmation in writing regarding what each person involved knows: that this lady no longer had any idea what she was doing.
It was confirmed that during the last months of her life, this lady was collected a once by her brother's daughter, in order to 'visit' her 'beloved' family; apparently, the payment assignment was signed during such a visit.
The whole case is presented to us with the question of what we wish to do.
It appears: we cannot do anything, although, logically, we can imagine that this lady wanted to leave her money to the foundation, because she had had that recorded by a notary public when she was of sound mind.
We could even imagine that as a spiritual person this lady is standing next to us and wants her wishes, recorded in her will, to be carried out, but despite this we can do NOTHING.
The two notary publics who looked at this matter also find this course of affairs distressing, but they are powerless.

How it can go well

Readers regularly ask us how they can arrange this 'properly'.
Over the years, we have gained some experience in that, not due in the least to legacies which went 'wrong' as described above.
In addition, we have discussed these matters with various notary publics.
A number of points arise from this which we will outline below.
The most important thing is to draw up a sound will while of sound mind.
Without a will in writing, nothing is certain.
It is better to have a will drawn up sooner rather than later.
Many people put this off, because they still feel 'well'.
But then sometimes it is suddenly 'too late'.
A will is not an 'absolute last will and testament' either.
Nowadays, it is advisable to review each will every five years in order to see if everything is still correct, or whether everything has remained the same as on the date when the will was drawn up.
And if something important has changed, the will can be changed in this regard.
In this way, the last will and testament always remains up-to-date.
Of course, the notary public is the appointed person for drawing up or changing a will.
He is the expert regarding wills, and can indicate exactly how the will in your situation can be made as water-tight as possible.
Because every situation is different, and this is why tailor-made advice is the most advisable.
The text which you will now read is of a general nature, but has been checked by two notary publics in order to give you sound legal advice in the meantime.
For example, it is very important to include the correct details of the foundation in your will.

Necessary details of the foundation

In the will there should be a detailed description of which part of the inheritance goes to which persons or bodies.
As far as the foundation is concerned, certain information is necessary for this purpose, by means of which every notary public or executor can locate and contact the foundation unmistakably and quickly, in order to reach a smooth settlement of the last will and testament.
In a testament, for this purpose it is best to include the following details of the foundation:
1. The most important thing of all is to include the full correct statutory name of the foundation, which is:
Stichting Geestelijk-Wetenschappelijk Genootschap "De Eeuw van Christus".
2. The second important piece of information is the registration number in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (In Dutch: Kamer van Koophandel) which is:
41149585
3. Thirdly, other address details can also be included, such as the present official address: Braspenningstraat 88, 1827 JW Alkmaar, the Netherlands.
4. Fourthly, it could also be mentioned that the foundation was set up on 12 September 1946.
If you have already drawn up a will apportioning (part of) your inheritance to the foundation, you can compare the details in your will with the four points mentioned above.
If your will does not include the exact statutory name or the registration number for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we would advise you to add these details (and then also points 3 and 4) to your will, so that no dispute can arise regarding the identity and accessibility of this 'heir' or legatee.

The executor

Executor is a fancy word for the person responsible for the correct execution of the will.
It is important that you accurately include the identity of the person you choose for this purpose, preferably along with their BSN (civil service) number (previously Sofi (tax and social security)number).
Generally, the executor is your confidential advisor, whom you can be sure will take care of your inheritance with heart and soul as you meant this yourself in your will.
This is why it is also advisable to go through your will with this person, while that is still in your power.
If he or she knows exactly everything you mean, that is an additional guarantee for a correct execution.
Also if you are changing your will, it is a good idea to inform your confidential advisor about this.
Often the executor does not execute the will personally, but he/she delegates the task to a notary public (office).
This notary public is then 'delegated executor', which gives him/her rights carry out all actions necessary in order to give shape to the last will and testament.
For example, that could be the sale of your house.
The notary public prepares this, and the executor must finally place his/her signature on the sales deed.
It is interesting to know that this delegation can be withdrawn at any time and assigned to someone else.
In this regard, we were once contacted by a lady who no longer (completely) trusted her executing notary public and was sorry that she had assigned him the execution.
This is not necessary, because the 'mandate' can be withdrawn.
The executor can then deal with the inheritance him/herself, or appoint someone else again.
Whoever actually also executes the will (or a part of it), ultimately it is only the executor mentioned in the will who has the final responsibility for all actions.
This is why it cannot do any harm either to ask for a second opinion in complex situations before matters are completed.
What is often not considered is the possibility that the executor indicated in the will, at the time of your death, is no longer capable him/herself of executing the will or supervising this, as a result of illness or because the executor him/herself is already deceased.
This is why it is best to include a 'second option' in your will, 'just in case'.
For example, some people include the foundation as second executor.
And you can count on it: the Society Spiritual Science Foundation "The Age of Christ" will continue to exist eternally!
Sometimes donors send us a copy of their will so that we already know how that has been arranged.
When the will is later completed, we can see more quickly 'whether everything is in order' and in this way matters are completed as you stated in your will.
If you do not appoint an executor in your will, then all the heirs have joint jurisdiction.
In practice, the notary public dealing with the will usually suggests to the heirs to settle the estate himself.
You can include an arrangement in your will concerning the payment of the executor.
If no arrangement is in place, the executor can charge the legal payment.
This is set at 1% of the value of your capital on the date of death.
Notary publics will often charge a fee depending on the amount of time involved.
If the notary public and the executor are one and the same person, it must be agreed beforehand which type of payment he/she chooses.

The heirs

The executor is therefore not necessarily an heir; often it is not even the case.
The executor should only supervise that the correct parts of the estate go to the correct heirs.
The will must contain a list of the heirs; these are the persons or bodies which receive (a part of) the inheritance.
The foundation can therefore also be an heir.
When there are more than one heir, it must be indicated precisely which part of the inheritance goes to which heir.
The parts of the inheritance can be described accurately, such as, for example, a house or other material possession.
You can also indicate that a part of your complete inheritance goes to a certain heir.
In the case that we described, the lady had apportioned 2/3 of her complete inheritance to the foundation and 1/3 to her best friend, who was also appointed as executor.
In addition to the construction of portions of inheritance (so many parts or so many percent of the inheritance), you can also make use of bequests.
A bequest is a marked out and clearly described portion of an inheritance.
You can apportion a bequest of € 20,000 to the foundation, for example.
When there is enough money present in your inheritance or can be obtained by the sale of portions of the inheritance, then that amount exactly is paid out, independent of the total sum of the (liquidated) inheritance.

The portions of the inheritance

It is equally important that in the will it is described as accurately as possible which portion of the inheritance goes to which heir.
That is obvious in the case of property, a house is a house.
The address and the land registry identification are usually sufficient.
Generally, a property is liquidated - so converted into liquid money - so that the profits from the sale of the property can be transferred to the bank account of the heir.
It is a different case for all more liquid portions of the inheritance, such as money.
This can be described in more detail by stating the bank and the bank product (eg. savings account) where the money is held, and how much is in the account at the time of drawing up the will.
We are regularly informed by readers that upon their death paintings by Jozef Rulof will go to the foundation.
It is then advisable to include a detailed description in the will of the paintings referred to, also with a mention of the height and width measurements of the painting.
A description of the illustration possibly including a photograph is also advisable.
In this way, we received four photographs this autumn, which a reader had made of the paintings by Jozef Rulof which she will give to the foundation upon her death.
We asked her whether we could include these photographs in the donors' magazine of July 2009, because they have never been shown in public before, which she agreed to with all her heart.
They are paintings which were received by Jozef Rulof in America and which his brother Anton (Teun) had for a long time.
Anton gave them personally to the reader, who visited him several times in America.
In this way, we have already received the promise that many paintings will return to the 'source', so that we can preserve them in the best possible storage conditions for future generations.

The preferential right of a description of assets

The reader mentioned above also expressed her concern that she did not want to leave any debts to the foundation.
Indeed, if people want to leave a property to the foundation which has a mortgage, it is not inconceivable that if that property decreases considerably in value, a situation could arise whereby the inheritance actually places a burden of debt on the heirs.
However, that risk can be overcome by means of the ‘beneficiary acceptance’ [’beneficiair aanvaarden’].
Another way of describing this is 'accepting under the preferential right of a description of assets' ['aanvaarden onder het voorrecht van boedelbeschrijving'].
In the articles of association of our foundation it is stated under the chapter Capital: (The capital of the foundation shall be formed by:) what the foundation obtains through legacy, bequest, gifts or in any other form.
The foundation may only accept legacies under the preferential right of description of assets.
When a notary public as delegated executor sees that a portion of inheritance has been apportioned to the foundation, he/she always first asks whether we will accept that inheritance.
Our answer is then that we will accept that inheritance under the preferential right of a description of assets.
The notary public draws up a description of assets which indicates precisely what the income and expenditure are from the inheritance, from which it can be seen whether the inheritance will result in a positive or negative final balance.
So the foundation accepts the inheritance under the condition that the final balance will be positive.

The warm hand

We could ask the question how the lady who later suffered dementia could have prevented her money from being taken, without her knowledge, by a person to whom she would not have given her agreement in her will or while in sound mind.
Often the notary public is asked the question: how can we make my will water-tight.
Whatever arrangements are included, completely certainty of water-tightness can never be guaranteed.
When you pass on, ultimately you must trust that other people will execute matters as you yourself laid down in your last will and testament.
If that does not feel right, ultimately the only completely certain way of donating to the foundation what you want it to have is donating with 'a warm hand'.
It is only while you are alive that you have the complete certainty that you can supervise a correct handing over of the donation.
We regularly hear from donors: I am giving you this amount now, because I cannot bear thinking that something unexpected should happen to the money which I have saved for the foundation; I will only be able to sleep peacefully again when it has safely arrived at the foundation.
For material things such as paintings, it is also possible to donate them to the foundation while you are still alive, for example, by means of a written agreement between the donor and the foundation that the paintings will continue to hang in the donor's house as long as he/she wishes that.
In that case, no unclear situations can arise later with regard to the right of ownership of the paintings.

ANBI

In both cases - both for a donation 'while alive' and for a donation 'through a will' - the foundation is exempted from paying tax on the donation or inheritance.
Society Spiritual Science Foundation "The Age of Christ" is a so-called ANBI, a public benefit organization, popularly referred to as a 'charitable organization'.
This means that the foundation falls under the 'zero percent rate' so it pays 0% tax on your donation or inheritance.
We hear from many donors that they are especially pleased that their donation is 'not going to the taxman'.
As you probably know, tax on inheritances can be as much as 68% of the total inheritance, if the receiving party is not a public benefit organization.
In addition, the following applies to people living in the Netherlands: As a result of the public benefit organization decision, you can also deduct your donation from your taxable income 'while alive', provided that your (non-periodical) gifts are between 1% and 10% of the (collective) total income for personal deduction.
With this gift deduction, the tax legislater wanted to make it the case that private individuals would give more to charity than without the gift deduction.
Imagine that you want to make a donation to the foundation and you have € 3,000 available.
If you have a tax privilege of 40%, you can donate € 5,000, because then you will get € 2,000 (40% of € 5,000) back from the tax office.
There are also numerous other routes which can be taken in order to obtain a tax concession and possibly give this to charity.
For example, there is the 'five year annuity construction' ['vijf-jaar-lijfrente constructie'], whereby you can deduct the complete amount from the income tax, even if that does not amount to between 1% and 10% of your income.

Allocation of funds

What will your inheritance be used for?
Generally speaking, that is the same purpose for which your donations are used: to support the mission of the foundation.
On the one hand, that is translating and publishing the books in other languages,and on the other hand, making the work of the Masters known in the Netherlands and abroad.
Whereas your donations are used to finance the daily operations of the foundation, inheritances or bequests give the foundation special important extra possibilities.
In the first instance, inheritances provide the foundation with a financial buffer against unexpected circumstances.
With your inheritance, you are therefore assuring the financial survival of the foundation in the long term.
In the second instance, they give the society the opportunity of financing a policy for the longer term.
In the first instance, we have in mind here the translation project.
Translating costs the society a great deal of money, which cannot be managed from the annual budgets.
It is a 'long-winded' project which can only be productive with five and ten year plans.