Testamentary Formalities in Germany
Comparative Succession Law, Vol. 1: Testamentary Formalities, pp. 175-220, Kenneth G.C. Reid, Marius J. de Waal, and Reinhard Zimmermann, eds., Oxford University Press, 2011
Posted: 13 Nov 2010 Last revised: 24 Sep 2012
Date Written: October 1, 2010
The essay traces the history of the ordinary as well a extra-ordinary will types in German law. It commences with an analysis of private wills in 19th century Germany and relates the debates surrounding the introduction - at the last conceivable moment and against protracted opposition - of the holograph will into the BGB. Yet, judicial experience with it in the first four decades of the 20th century was anything but encouraging. The problems were solved, eventually, by legislative reform: the Testamentsgesetz of 1938 laid the foundations of the holograph will as it has come to be established as a generally accepted part of modern German law. The essay analyses the way in which modern courts and writers interpret the form requirements of the holograph will. It then traces the development of public wills, of emergency wills and of wills made during a sea voyage in German law. It also relates the available empirical data on will-making in Germany and attempts to provide a general assessment of the experiences with the will types recognized in that country. The essay is part of a historical and comparative project on testamentary formalities.
Keywords: succession, law of; wills, form requirements, holograph wills, notarial wills, emergency wills, formalism, signature, will-making
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