Contracts of inheritance have a strong binding effect
Anyone who wishes to arrange their estate according to a contract of inheritance should note that a contract of inheritance can have a strong binding effect, as demonstrated by a ruling of the OLG München (Higher Regional Court of Munich) (31 Wx 280/14).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Anybody who wishes to avoid the rules of intestate succession kicking in can organise their estate in a will or contract of inheritance (http://www.grprainer.com/en/legal-advice/law-of-succession/contract-of-inheritance.html). However, particularly in the case of a contract of inheritance, it is important to note that the provisions laid down therein can have a strong binding effect. As is clear from a ruling of the OLG München, in cases involving a contract of inheritance, it is possible in individual cases for the surviving party to the contract to be bound by the designation of one of his or her own children as heir, where that child lived for several years in the same household as the deceased contractual party and was particularly close to him or her.
In the case in question, the testatrix had four daughters. A few years after her husband passed away, she lived together with her new partner to whom she was not married. In 1980, she concluded a contract of inheritance with her cohabiting partner in which they mutually appointed each other as sole heirs without any restrictions. They also appointed the youngest daughter who had lived together with them in the same household as their final heir. Furthermore, the contract of inheritance provided that the surviving partner be granted the right to issue partial instructions with respect to the estate and allocate the heirs different shares in the inheritance.
After the death of her cohabiting partner, the testatrix drew up various wills in which she appointed her other daughters as heirs and eventually as her sole heirs. A dispute over the inheritance then arose among the daughters following the death of the testatrix. The OLG München recognised that the youngest daughter had been appointed with binding effect in the contract of inheritance as the sole heir and that the other wills were not valid. According to the contract of inheritance, the testatrix was only allowed to issue new partial instructions, but not appoint new heirs. The OLG took the view that the personal circumstances also indicated that the predeceased cohabiting partner wanted the youngest daughter to be appointed as the final heir, having been a “father figure” to her for many years. The Court thus held that the testatrix was bound by the designation of her own child as heir.
Lawyers who are competent in the field of succession law can advise on all matters pertaining to an estate.
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