16. Nov 17

OLG Köln: Will written with non-dominant hand valid

It is possible for a will to be valid even if it was written with the hand one does not normally write with. That was the verdict of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Köln [Higher Regional Court of Cologne] in its ruling of August 3, 2017 (Az.: 2 Wx 149/17).

In addition to preparing a notarized will, a testamentary disposition can also be handwritten. To this end, the will needs to be written from top to bottom as well as signed by the testator. Moreover, the place and date ought not to be omitted in case any legal disputes arise. We at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that this kind of handwritten will can easily be attributed to the testator in most cases. The situation is more difficult, however, if the testator writes the will with the “wrong” hand, i.e. the hand he does not normally write with.

This is exactly what one testator did. Due to his illness his right arm began to show signs of paralysis, with the result that he drafted a will with his left hand in which he appointed his neighbours as his heirs. Notwithstanding this, a second will came to light. According to this, the testator’s siblings were to become his heirs. The OLG Köln had to decide which will was valid.

After extensively gathering evidence through the testimony of witnesses and obtaining an expert graphological assessment, the OLG Köln ruled that the will written with the testator’s left hand was valid and the neighbours received the certificate of inheritance. While the expert witness was not able to confirm with certainty that this will was from the testator because there were no comparable documents written with the latter’s left hand, one witness was able to give credible assurances that he was present when the testator drew up the will. The siblings were unsuccessful in establishing their line of reasoning that a will written with one’s non-dominant hand would have been substantially more irregular in appearance; it was held that it is possible to produce a regular typeface even with one’s untrained hand.

The Court took the view that the other will was not from the testator. It was sent anonymously to the probate court and prepared at a later stage according to its featured date. It was clear from the typeface alone that it was not from the testator, as at this point in time he was only able to write with his left hand.

When it comes to issues pertaining to an estate, lawyers who are versed in the field of succession law can offer advice.

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