Legacy or Bequest

What is a bequest?

A bequest is a testamentary gift of objects or property. The beneficiary receives the right to claim the object from the heirs after the testator’s death. In this sense, the heirs bear the burden of the bequest.

Who must fulfill the legacy and when?

Upon death, the fulfillment of the legacy, i.e. the obligation to deliver it, becomes due, unless the testator provides otherwise. The legatee may claim the legacy by means of a declaration to the heir and thus put him in default.

When must the legacy be delivered?

It is fulfilled with the delivery of the object to the legatee.

What is to be done if the legacy is not delivered?

If the heir, who must comply with the bequest, does not deliver the object awarded despite being requested to do so by the beneficiary, the beneficiary is in default. If necessary, the legatee must assert his or her right to fulfillment of the bequest in court. Our lawyers in Frankfurt will be pleased to support you in this.

What is the difference between a legacy and an inheritance?

A distinction must be made between an estate and an inheritance. If the heir only disposes of certain objects, i.e. if the testator donates them to a third person, we generally speak of a bequest. The appointment of an heir is regularly only a designation of the person who is to receive the inheritance, irrespective of the donation of individual objects. If there is no designation of the inheritance in a will and the testator only disposes of parts of the estate, it is difficult to determine the person entitled to the inheritance. Therefore, when drafting a will, it is essential to ensure that not only the individual items are assigned, but also to determine who is to accept the inheritance and fulfill the bequests.

When can the inheritance be claimed?

It can only be claimed upon the death of the testator, unless the testator has determined a different time.

How is the bequest fulfilled?

Except for special provisions in the will, the legacy is fulfilled by transfer, that is, by obtaining possession and transmitting ownership.

How can a bequest be specified in a will?

In a will, the testator is free to determine what should happen to his property after his death. If the testator orders that a certain person is to receive a certain object as an inheritance, this is already a bequest order. This is to be distinguished from a condition. In the case of a bequest, a third person is also to receive something, but unlike a bequest, he cannot claim the object himself.

What should be taken into account in the case of a bequest in the will?

In the case of a bequest, care must always be taken to name the person who is to fulfill it, i.e. an heir must also be designated as such. Thanks to their extensive experience in inheritance matters, the lawyers of our Frankfurt law firm offer the greatest expertise. We can advise you on all questions relating to legacies.

When does the estate accrue and when is it due?

Upon death, the estate (all of the deceased’s assets) passes to the beneficiary of the inheritance, even if he or she does not find out about it until later. This is called succession or accrual of the estate. At the same time – unless the testator has stipulated otherwise – the performance of the bequest also becomes enforceable. This is also called accumulation of the legacy.

What does it mean to receive a legacy?

If the testator orders a person to receive an object from the estate, this is a bequest order. Consequently, the person receives the bequeathed object.

How is an inheritance disposed of in Frankfurt?

A bequest can only be disposed of by testamentary disposition. An object passed on during life has not been passed on by means of an anticipated bequest, but by means of an anticipated succession.

How is a bequest formulated?

For the formulation of a legacy, it is sufficient that the person and the object be named in the will or testamentary disposition.

When does the bequest expire?

The bequest is due upon the testator’s death.

How can a bequest be requested?

The bequest is made by indicating in the will that a certain object should be given to a certain person.

How can a bequest be formulated in the will?

Often objects are bequeathed in the will that have a specific reference to the beneficiary (legatee). In most cases, it is jewelry or collections that are bequeathed with the following words: “My jewelry should go to niece XY”. The heirs must then transfer it to niece XY.

What can be bequeathed?

Only assets that belong to the estate at the time of death can be bequeathed. The exception is the so-called acquisition bequest. In this case, the heirs are obliged to acquire a certain object from the testator’s estate and transfer it to the legatee. However, according to Article 2169 of the Civil Code, such an agreement is effective only if the procurement is expressly ordered.

How can a bequest be accepted or rejected?

As in the case of gifts, it is up to the beneficiary to accept the bequest. An explicit renunciation of the bequest is not required. A declaration to the heir that no rights are derived from the bequest is sufficient.

How can they formulate the bequest in the will?

“Person A will receive item XY after my death”.

Who bears the burdens associated with the bequest?

In the case of the bequest order, we also speak of the burden of the heir. Therefore, the heir bears the burden of the bequest. He has to fulfill it.

What is the difference between a bequest and an inheritance?

In the case of a bequest, the testator expressly directs who is to receive the entire estate upon his or her death. In contrast, in the case of a bequest, only a portion of the estate is given to one person. In case of doubt, it is assumed that the grant of the substantial part of the estate is related to an inheritance.

When is a bequest ineffective?

If, in a bequest, an object is bequeathed that does not belong to the estate at the time of inheritance, the bequest is invalid. If, at the time of inheritance, an object belongs to the estate but must be sold by the testator, i.e., the sale constitutes an obligation of the estate, it nevertheless does not belong to the estate. A bequest relating to such an object is also not valid. However, if the testator has expressly willed that the object goes to the beneficiary even if it does not belong to the estate, the bequest could be a bequest of acquisition.

Who pays inheritance tax in Frankfurt on a bequest?

The person to whom the asset corresponds is always subject to gift and inheritance tax (principle of affluence). However, it may be that the testator has also ordered the assumption of the resulting gift tax. However, this should be considered as a separate gift. Without a separate order, the beneficiary is still liable to pay the tax.

What happens to the bequest if the beneficiary dies before the testator?

Since the right to a legacy arises, at the earliest, with the death of the testator (see Article 2176 of the Civil Code), it can only be inherited and passed on from that time. If the legatee dies before the testator and the testator has not designated a substitute legatee, the legacy right is extinguished. If, on the other hand, the legatee has died after the testator, the legacy right is transferred to the legatee’s heir.

Who must fulfill the legacy, the predecessor or the successor?

In the case of preheritance and postheritance, the inheritance does not pass to the estate of the postheritor until the death of the postheritor. However, the bequest must be honored at the time of the testator’s death (unless otherwise ordered), so it must also be honored at that time. After the testator’s death, it is the prior heir.

Who must pay the annuity in the case of a bequest?

If an annuity is ordered to be paid by bequest, it must be borne by the heir. It is often a matter of securing provision for the spouse or partner by the payment of an annuity by the heir, who draws it from the use of the estate.

What is meant by paying an inheritance?

If a certain object is given by way of bequest, even if it cannot be bequeathed by the heir to the beneficiary or can only be bequeathed at disproportionate expense, the heir can also release himself by paying the value, i.e. paying a sum of money in lieu of the object.  

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