Disinheritance only possible with will or contract of inheritance

Published 13 July 2016 by GRP Rainer LLP

Family disputes can become deeply entrenched and are then no longer capable of being resolved. This can give rise to the desire to disinherit one’s relatives. For this to happen, a will needs to be prepared.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: If a testator fails to leave behind a will or contract of inheritance, the rules of intestate succession automatically kick in. The end result may not correspond with what the testator had in mind. If he does not wish to have his estate distributed according to the rules of intestate succession, he can set out an alternative in a will or contract of inheritance. This also applies if a person who is entitled to inherit is to be disinherited.

Even if the divisions in a family run deep and can therefore no longer be healed, it is no simple matter cutting one’s spouse, children or other persons who are entitled to inherit out of one’s will. It is essential to draw up a will or contract of inheritance and, having regard to the relevant legal requirements, make arrangements to distribute the estate in accordance with one’s own expectations. These requirements also encompass, e.g. claims to a compulsory portion. The compulsory portion equates to half the value of the statutory share in the estate. It is not necessary to explicitly mention the heir’s diminished compulsory portion in the will. It is enough for him not to be considered in the testamentary disposition.

Completely disinheriting someone is difficult and only possible if the person in question has proven to be unworthy of inheriting. However, this is only the case in a very narrow set of circumstances, such as if said person kills or attempts to kill the testator. Having said that, the entitlement to a compulsory portion does not lapse automatically; the testator must explicitly state in the will or contract of inheritance that the compulsory portion will be revoked, and set this out in such a way that it can be clearly understood and is properly justified.

In cases involving a will or contract of inheritance, the testator should always make sure that his testamentary dispositions are clearly worded so as to preclude any scope for interpretation that could lead to disputes among the heirs. It is equally important to be mindful of formal and legal requirements.

Lawyers who are experienced in the field of succession law can provide you with advice regarding wills and contracts of inheritance as well as ensure that testamentary dispositions are consistent with the testator’s wishes.