31. Oct 16

OLG München: Co-heirs must answer requests for information with utmost care

Requests for information directed at a co-heir need to be answered with utmost care. That was the verdict of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München [Higher Regional Court of Munich] in its ruling of February 17, 2016 (Az.: 20 U 126/15).

GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte, Köln, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, München und Stuttgart führen aus: Succession law provides that in cases involving a community of heirs, the heirs are entitled to request information from one another regarding possible gifts requiring payment of compensation. According to the OLG München, this duty of disclosure needs to be fulfilled with utmost care, otherwise the person concerned may be requested to swear an affidavit.

Even if the testator has carefully made arrangements for everything in a will, it is still possible for a dispute to arise among the heirs. One potential source of conflict here is gifts made by the testator to the heirs during the former’s lifetime. These can prove significant both in relation to claims to a compulsory portion as well as subsequent claims for compensation.

The OLG München had to rule on one such case. The testator’s two children had each inherited about a third of the former’s estate. The brother requested that his sister disclose the full details concerning financial gifts received from their father. She initially claimed to have no knowledge of any gifts from the father, stating that he had administered her accounts and the information which was later requested from the banks did not give rise to the conclusion that gifts had been made. Her brother was not convinced by this statement and therefore wanted an affidavit to be sworn. The sister eventually had the account documents reviewed by an accountant and corrected the information she had disclosed. She then needed to amend this again at a later date.

The OLG München ultimately granted the brother’s legal action and compelled his sister to swear an affidavit. It held that such a claim is justified if there is reason to believe that the information presented is incomplete and that this is the result of the obliged party’s lack of care. The Court went on to say that the incompleteness of the information and lack of care need not be certain; it is enough for this suspicion to be based on facts. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that disclosure must extend to all gifts which might potentially require payment of compensation and not merely those which incontrovertibly lead to this outcome.

Lawyers who are experienced in the field of succession law can advise on all matters pertaining to inheritances and succession.

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