HEIRS / TESTATOR
Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft attorneys provide heirs and testators with professional legal advice on inheritance matters such as:
The will serves to assure that the distribution of your estate occurs according to your intentions. Certain guidelines, however, must be observed when formulating a will. Experience has shown that persons lacking legal knowledge and working without the support of attorney often produce faulty wills. This is because German inheritance law — though well thought-out legally — was not written with the general public in mind. The consequences of a flawed will can be far-reaching and lead to disputes among the heirs, causing costs that are not only economic but also emotional. Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft is pleased to offer you comprehensive advice on organizing your estate in accordance with inheritance law and in consideration of inheritance taxation.
The testamentary contract is an alternative to the will. With a testamentary contract the testator enters into a legal agreement with the heirs at an earlier stage. Unlike the will, which the testator can change without restriction, the testamentary contract can only be revised with the mutual consent of its signing parties. Although the testamentary contract does indeed legally bind the testator, the assets listed in the document remain at the testator’s discretion until time of death. The testator is prohibited, though, from making gifts to others with the sole intention of negatively impacting the heirs named in the contract. Gifts distributed under such circumstances can be reclaimed by an heir named in the contract if such abuse can be proved upon the death of the testator. The testamentary contract primarily regulates the appointment of the heirs, the bequests, and any conditions. These aspects are legally binding for the testator. The contract may also include other directives typical of a will, such as the installment of an executor to administer the estate. Spouses often conclude testamentary contracts in which each spouse names the other as sole heir while appointing their children as heirs to the surviving partner.
Anyone who successfully builds up a business will want to ensure that lifework’s continued existence. Achieving this, though, is a complex matter. Owners of family businesses should begin their succession planning process in a timely fashion. The standard succession planning instruments are the will, the testamentary contract, the marital contract (see also Spouses / Non-marital Partnerships) and the transitioning of the business into a foundation. Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft advises business people and family businesses on the legal aspects of the succession planning process. Practicing in the areas of commercial, inheritance, and family law, Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft works with inheritance taxation experts in advising you on succession planning.
Will and Estate administration
Appointing an executor ensures that your estate will actually be administered as you intended it in your will. An executor serves, for example, to restrict the influence of “malicious” heirs and to protect the claims of your intended heirs. In settling your estate, the chosen executor is responsible for distributing your assets to the heirs as your will prescribes (Estate Settlement). The executor protects your estate from divestiture. Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft advises you confidentially on all matters of estate settlement and will also take on this important responsibility for clients if desired.
Legally mandated heirship
In the absence of a will or testamentary contract, the estate’s heirs will be determined according to inheritance law. The surviving spouse inherits in all cases. Other heirs inherit according to their degree of kinship to the testator: The children and grandchildren are first degree heirs; the parents, siblings, and their offspring second degree heirs; and the grandparents as well as the aunts, uncles, and cousins third degree heirs. If the testator is not survived by a spouse, the great-grandparents and their offspring come into question as forth degree heirs. All other forebears and their offspring are heirs of the fifth degree. Where no heirs can be found, the state inherits as the only legal heir. Inheritance law prescribes that the heirs of a particular degree will only inherit when there are no heirs of a higher degree of kinship. Stepchildren are not per se legally entitled to inherit unless adopted by the testator.
Calculating proportional inheritance shares is a complex matter. In the absence of a will or testamentary contract, proportional inheritance shares are determined according to inheritance law: The surviving spouse inherits one-quarter of the estate when first degree heirs exist and one-half when second or third degree heirs exist. If the couple’s marriage was a community of accrued property regime, the surviving spouse’s share will amount to one-half of the estate in the presence of first degree heirs and three-quarters in the presence of second and third degree heirs.
The size of the compulsory inheritance shares’ is often a cause of contention. This usually occurs because the testator has failed to correctly calculate the heirs’ compulsory shares in the will. Inheritance law awards the testator’s close kin a compulsory share. In practice, this means that there is little, if any, chance of excluding a testator’s children from the inheritance. The exception proves the rule. Jürgens Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft assists you in calculating, reviewing, and asserting compulsory inheritance share claims.