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Substitute Heir in Will Not Reversionary Heir - Law of Succession

An arrangement in a will, according to which a substitute heir is designated in the event that an heir dies childless, cannot be interpreted as provisional succession and reversionary inheritance.


Cologne, NRW -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/30/2013 -- GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and London conclude: The Higher Regional Court (OLG) of Hamm ruled on July 18, 2013 (Az.: 15 W 88/13) that the arrangement of a provisional succession of the older son with a reversionary inheritance of the petitioner cannot be inferred from a testator’s handwritten will that is open to interpretation if the testatrix has determined a substitute heir in the will. The testatrix could not have been familiar with the legal concepts of provisional succession and reversionary inheritance. In determining a provisional succession and reversionary inheritance, it is to be expected that she would have designated one of the restrictions on disposal pursuant to provisional succession with respect to her estate. However, no such an arrangement was included in the will.

Even the concept of the substitute heir cannot be inferred from such an arrangement. In determining a substitute heir, it is merely a question of exchanging the persons entitled to inherit.

The OLG had to rule on a case in which a testatrix had died in 1991 leaving behind four children. In 1985 the testatrix had made a hand written will, according to which the son born in 1952 was to become her sole heir. In the event that he should die childless, the testatrix had designated her son born in 1958 as “substitute heir”. After the older son died childless in 2012, the surviving younger son filed for a certificate of inheritance that would identify him as the sole heir to his mother. The OLG rejected the petition.

While the German law of succession is well conceived, it is not written for laymen. Nevertheless, many testators draw up their will without professional help. The consequences: an invalid will and disputes among the heirs. A lawyer active in the field of the law of succession can prevent this. If testators organise the estate with the help of a lawyer, they can be certain that the heirs will respect their last wishes.

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GRP Rainer LLP is an international firm of lawyers and tax advisors who are specialists in commercial law. The firm counsels commercial and industrial companies and corporations, as well as associations, small- and mid-sized businesses, self-employed freelancers and private individuals worldwide from offices Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Stuttgart, Bremen, Nuremberg and London UK.

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