The effects of a mutual will in German law

According to §§ 2265-2273 BGB (Opens external link in new windowcheck if German inheritance law applies) spouses can make a joint will. A joint holographic may be hand written by only one spouse. However, both spouses have to sign the testament in accordance with § 2247 BGB. A joint public may be made in accordance with §§ 2231 sec 1, 2232 BGB. A joint will may contain mutual testamentary dispositions. The article gives an introduction to the effects of such mutual dispositions.

 

What is a mutual testamentary disposition?

A “mutual testamentary disposition” is a testamentary disposition in a joint will that is connected with another testamentary disposition and would not have been made without that other testamentary disposition (see § 2270 sec. 1 BGB). According to § 2270 sec. 2 BGB, unless otherwise provided, it is presumed that a testamentary disposition is mutually connected to another testamentary disposition if the estate shall pass over to the surviving spouse and after the death of the surviving spouse to a relative or otherwise related person (e.g. friend) of the predeceased spouse. According to § 2270 sec. 3 BGB, § 2270 sec. 1 BGB does not apply to dispositions other than those concerning the appointment of heirs, testamentary bequests or testamentary burdens. Any other testamentary disposition, e.g. administration of the estate, is not mutual.

 

What happens if a mutual disposition is revoced or invalid?

If a mutual testamentary disposition is revoced or invalid, the corresponding testamentary disposition is invalid, too (see § 2270 I BGB).

 

Can a mutual testamentary disposition be revoced?

During the lifetime of the other spouse, every spouse may revoke his own disposition in accordance with § 2296 BGB. However, this revocation may not be made in a new, unilateral will. After the death of one spouse, mutual testamentary disposítions of the other spouse can, in principle, not be revoked any more and are binding. However, if the surviving spouse renounces the inheritance, he is free to change his will (§ 2271 II l BGB).

 

What happens if the surviving spouse makes a new will after the death of the other spouse?

A mutual will that was not revoked is binding. Any will made later is void insofar as it is not in accordance with the foregoing joint testament and its mutual dispositions.

 

For more information in English about German inheritance law click Opens external link in new windowhere.

 

 

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2009 © Jan-Hendrik Frank (Rechtsanwalt und Fachanwalt für Erbrecht)