Quick tip – Inventories are Usually for Both Spouses

If you find an estate inventory of a deceased married person, beware that the property in the inventory is usually for the couple, not just the property that belonged to the deceased spouse. 

If there was no prenuptial agreement, the husband and wife jointly owned all their property. The inventory would usually appraise all the property, of which the deceased’s share would be half. That half would be divided among the heirs of the deceased, such as his or her children or (in the absence of children) the parents, siblings, or more distant relatives. The surviving spouse would not inherit anything, but would keep her or his half of the property.

In many cases, the surviving spouse came to an agreement with the children of their guardians to purchase the deceased spouse’s share. Sometimes it was purchased outright, but more often the surviving spouse could keep the entire estate in exchange for a debt to the children to be paid later, for example when they came of age.

funeral cortege

Funeral of Michiel de Ruyter, a naval admiral. Credits: Jan Luyken, collection Rijksmuseum (public domain)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. I think they came an agreeement with the guardians of their children, not the other way around 🙂

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