21. Aug 17

Loose slips of paper not a valid will according to KG Berlin

When it comes to wills, it is important to observe certain formal requirements. According to the Kammergericht (KG) Berlin [Higher Regional Court of Berlin], a loose collection of notes cannot be considered a testamentary disposition.

The formal requirements relating to a handwritten will are not particularly difficult to meet. We at the law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that the testator should, however, make sure that the testamentary disposition has a clear heading, signature and date, and that it is not likely to be identified as a mere draft. That was the verdict of the Kammergericht Berlin in a ruling from May 24, 2017 (Az.: 6 W 100/16).

In the instant case, a married couple had drawn up a joint will in 1962 in which they had mutually appointed each other as sole heirs and designated their children in common as final heirs. The husband also had an illegitimate child. When he passed away, a dispute arose concerning the inheritance.

The husband had allegedly prepared another will in 1997 featuring several deviations from the testamentary disposition written in 1962. However, the former was merely a loose collection of three unnumbered sheets. The last page included a date and the testator’s signature as well as the comment “einverstanden E.” (indicating agreement) from his wife.

The Kammergericht Berlin took the view that this loose collection of sheets did not constitute a validly drafted will. It held that while it is sufficient in the case of a joint will for one of the spouses to handwrite the testamentary disposition and for the other to sign it, the second spouse’s signature must conclude the statement. To this end, the Court stated that there needs to be certainty regarding the cohesiveness of the loose sheets as evidenced by continuous text, page references or other circumstances. A non-permanent connection or joint storage of the slips of paper was said to be generally insufficient. The Court therefore ruled that the joint will from 1962 was still valid.

Should issues arise in relation to an estate, will or contract of inheritance, lawyers who are versed in the field of succession law can offer advice to ensure that the testamentary dispositions are capable of being implemented in accordance with the testator’s wishes.

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