The number of what are referred to as patchwork or blended families is increasing, with these sometimes giving rise to problems in inheritance cases. For this reason, particularly unmarried couples and patchwork families should give thought to preparing a will or contract of inheritance.
German succession law continues to be tailored to the traditional family model. Under the rules of intestate succession, this means that when one of the spouses dies the surviving partner and the biological or adopted children are entitled to inherit. We at the law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note, however, that this also means unmarried partners and stepchildren can come away empty-handed if the testator has not drawn up a will or contract of inheritance.
A lot of couples nowadays make a conscious decision not to get married or do not wish to remarry following a divorce. This form of cohabitation without a marriage certificate is now widely accepted in society. Patchwork families are also on the rise.
Yet problems can arise when one of the two partners passes away. Under these circumstances, the unmarried partner is no more entitled to inherit than the stepchildren according to the rules of intestate succession, i.e. they would come away empty-handed. Even if the couple is married, it is still possible for injustices to arise in inheritance cases. If one of the partners dies, it is only the spouse and the biological children who have a statutory right to inherit.
To prevent these kinds of unintended injustices from occurring and ensure the surviving spouse and the children will be financially secure, it is therefore absolutely crucial to prepare a will or contract of inheritance. The testator is then able to personally determine who will be entitled to inherit as well as how much having regard to claims to the compulsory portion. If the living conditions have changed, e.g. after a divorce, and a will already exists, one ought to review whether this should be adjusted in light of the new living conditions.
A will or contract of inheritance is not only advisable in cases involving patchwork families. Essentially, anyone who does not wish their estate to be subject to the rules of intestate succession ought to draft a testamentary disposition. In doing so, care should always be taken to ensure the wording is as clear as possible and that there is no room for interpretation. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of succession law can advise on all matters relating to wills and contracts of inheritance.