16. Nov 15

OLG Schleswig: Handwritten will needs to be legible

A handwritten will has to be legible. Otherwise, it may not be effective according to a ruling of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Schleswig [Higher Regional Court of Schleswig] of July 16, 2015 (Az.: 3 Wx 19/15).

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: A will can be prepared by a notary or drawn up by hand. A handwritten will must, however, also be legible. Otherwise, it might not be effective and the rules of intestate succession will kick in instead of the testamentary disposition.

The case before the OLG Schleswig concerned the will of a testatrix who died in 2012. She had prepared a joint will with her husband, who went on to pass away before her. However, the will in question did not include any instructions regarding the line of succession. Following the death of the wife, the probate court granted the daughter the certificate of inheritance as the sole heir.

A carer who had been in contact with the testatrix both on a private as well as a professional basis appealed against this, claiming that the deceased had prepared another will shortly before her death in which she laid out her desire to leave everything to the carer. A corresponding document was presented by the carer. The problem: the will was to a large extent undecipherable. Even the special panel for estate matters was unable to make out from the document that it was clearly meant to represent the deceased’s final will. Like the probate court before it, the OLG Schleswig held that this unreadable document did not satisfy the format requirements expected of a valid will. Only the first and final words as well as the signature could be deciphered. The OLG stated, however, that a handwritten will needs to be legible to the extent that the testator’s final wishes can be inferred from this in full.

The illegibility alone was sufficient to deem the written document as not being a valid will, and it was therefore not necessary to examine issues such as testamentary capacity and the authenticity of the document.

A testator is able to lay out his final wishes in a will. In addition to formal requirements, e.g. legibility, date and signature, it is also crucial to observe statutory specifications such as the rules dealing with compulsory portions. Lawyers who are versed in the field of succession law can advise you on drawing up a valid will.

For more informations: https://www.grprainer.com/en/legal-advice/private-clients/law-of-succession/last-will-and-testament.html

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