Gifts and inheritance

During our lifetime, we seek to preserve or even increase our assets. However, only very few people make sufficient provisions for the time after death. This can lead to disputes in the family, trigger expensive lawsuits and ultimately reduce the value of the assets.

Every person is succeeded by an heir. If you do not appoint an heir yourself, they are determined by statute. The determination of such heirs of intestacy takes into account the closeness of the relationship to the deceased: Heirs of intestacy of first order are the children of the deceased. If they have already died before the deceased or if they reject the inheritance, their children – i.e. the grandchildren of the deceased – will in turn become heirs, and so on. If there are no heirs on intestacy of first order or if they have all rejected the inheritance, the parents of the deceased come into consideration as heirs on intestacy of second order, again alternatively their descendants – i.e. the siblings of the deceased –  if the parents have already died before the deceased or if they reject the inheritance. Heirs on intestacy of further orders are the grandparents – alternatively their descendants –, the great-grandparents and so on.

The spouse or the civil partner also has a right of intestate succession. The share of the inheritance depends, firstly, on the applicable family law rules for the relationship between the deceased and the spouse and, secondly, on which family members are still alive. If children, parents, siblings or grandparents of the deceased are alive, the spouse is entitled to a share of the inheritance beside them. The surviving spouse therefore usually does not inherit all of the deceased's assets. As a result, they cannot freely dispose of the inherited assets without the consent of the remaining heirs. If the children of the spouses are still minors, court approvals may even be required.

Non-marital partners have no right of intestate succession. Regardless of the duration of the non-marital partnership, the surviving partner does not receive a share of your assets by statute.

If intestate succession does not meet your expectations you can deviate from this by means of making last will or entering into a contract of inheritance. Thereby, you can determine yourself who should receive your assets after your death. However, the entitlement to a compulsory portion in favour of your next of kin may restrict your freedom to make a last will.

drafting your last will on your own is especially error-prone. For example, formulations may not be chosen clearly or the desired goal may not be achieved in the intended manner. In order to be sure that everything is settled according to your actual intention, you should discuss your ideas with your notary. Your notary will examine which testamentary dispositions make sense in your personal circumstances and will take care of the legally secure formulation of your last will. There are no additional costs associated with this as the consultation and drafting are covered by the fee for the notarisation itself.

If you have your last will notarised, you can not only be sure that your last will is actually implemented according to your intention. You also make it easier for your heirs to settle the estate, as it is usually no longer necessary for them to file for the granting of a certificate of inheritance – so your heirs not only save time but also the sometimes considerable costs for the certificate of inheritance.

In some cases it can make sense to transfer individual assets to the next generation during one's lifetime (so-called anticipated succession). In addition to succession with regard to a business, the transfer of real estate is of utmost importance. Through such a transfer, tax allowances can be used and claims of third parties who are entitled to a compulsory portion of the estate can be reduced under certain conditions.

When it comes to the decision whether a transfer during one's lifetime should be considered, the advantages and disadvantages of such transfer must be carefully weighed and require detailed legal advice. If real estate is transferred, the possible means of securing the transferor, for example by encumbering it with a usufruct or a right of residence in favour of the transferor, should be examined.

Notaries charge fees for their work according to a statutory fee system, which is based exclusively on the business value of the matter. There are no additional costs for consultation and the preparation of the draft deed apart from the fees for the notarisation itself. Identical legal services trigger identical fees for every notary. The notary may charge neither higher nor lower fees than those set by law.

Your notary will be happy to provide you with information about the costs to be expected – do not hesitate to ask him about this before the notarisation.

The internet has become the primary source of information for almost all aspects of life. For many questions users confidently turn to the world-encompassing community. But caution is advised when using standardised forms and model contracts from the internet. The notary will provide a tailor-made contract which takes into account the specific facts of the case.