- Effectiveness of a Handwritten Will
- December 18, 2015
- Law Firm: GRP Rainer LLP - Cologne Office
- In the absence of a will, the rules of intestate succession come into force. A handwritten will is only effective, however, if it meets certain conditions.
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: A will gives testators the opportunity to organise their estate as they see fit subject to statutory regulations. In addition to having a will drawn up by a notary public, it is also possible to personally write one’s “final will”.
To this end, it is necessary for the will to be handwritten and personally signed. If the will is written by a third party and simply signed by the testator, it might not be effective because of possible doubts as to the authenticity of the signature. In cases of doubt, an official request for an expert assessment comparing handwriting needs to be made.
Since it is impossible for an expert assessment to guarantee absolute certainty regarding the authenticity of a will, current jurisprudence provides that it is sufficient for there to be a degree of certainty which leaves no scope for reasonable doubt as to the will’s authenticity. However, it is not easy to achieve this level of certainty. According to a ruling of the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf (OLG) [Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf] of November 17, 2014, it is not enough for the signature to be more likely than not authentic (Az.: I-25 Wx 84/14). In the case in question, the expert determined a likelihood of 75 per cent. The OLG Düsseldorf considered this insufficient to recognise the authenticity of the testator’s signature and hence the will. In a previous judgment of the OLG, a likelihood of approx. 90 per cent was said to be enough to recognise the authenticity of a will.
In order to be able to implement the testator’s final wishes, the will has to satisfy other formal criteria. It must, for example, also feature a clear heading as well as a handwritten signature, and the location and date need to be specified. The wording of the will ought to be unambiguous and leave no room for interpretation, thereby preventing inheritance disputes from emerging.
Lawyers who are versed in the field of succession law can be of assistance in preparing an unambiguous will or contract of inheritance as well as with respect to other issues pertaining to succession law.