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Giving gifts to carers leads to a reduction in estate assets

If close relatives receive a high level of care during their lifetime then there is the possibility of giving gifts to the caregivers; these gifts then reduce the inheritance of those who would otherwise have been granted the equivalent value of these gifts.

The case that got to the Koblenz Regional Court (ruling of 18.11.2021, case reference 1 O 222/18, not yet legally binding) related to a married couple who, in 1996, had set up a will where they had initially mutually appointed each other as sole heirs and had designated their joint children as their final heirs. Furthermore, the will stipulated that one son would receive a property as an inheritance. However, following the death of the husband, the surviving testator gifted her co-ownership share in the property – which according to the will was actually meant to go to the son – to her daughter. In addition, a lifelong right of residence free of charge for the property was entered in the land register. Following the death of the mother, the siblings then disputed the lawfulness of this gift. The brother called for his sister to transfer the property to him and to authorise the cancellation of the right of residence.

However, the Regional Court dismissed the brother’s case. The Court maintained that this was because there could only be a claim if the mother, as the testator, had made the gift solely to the detriment of the son’s inheritance – this would thus have constituted an improper testamentary disposition. This could not be assumed in this case, since the testator had acted in her own interests. 

Outcome: After the evidence had been heard, the Court reached the (not yet legally binding) conclusion that, both prior to the transfer as well as in return for the gift, the daughter had provided care services to a considerable extent.

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