How do I write a will?

More and more people want their very personal values to last beyond their lifetime. And they are thinking about their inheritance: How can I arrange it so that there is no dispute? What do I have to do to ensure that what I wish for really comes to pass when I am no longer around? As a member of the initiative "My legacy does good", we present food for thought, orientation and practical tips on estate planning issues on this page.

The information provided here relates to the situation in Germany and cannot replace legal advice. 

Your Last Will: Why a Will is so important

In this tutorial from My Heritage Does Good, very practical advice is given and knowledge on the subject is imparted. 

This video is in German language. English subtitles available.

Graphics on first, second and third degree heirs
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The right form: Writing a legally valid will

This episode is about the right form for a legally valid will. Suggestions and initial assistance are given on how to formulate your last will and testament. This Video is in German language. English subtitles available.



Title: How to write my last will
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What service does a non-profit organisation offer as an heiress?

This episode is about: What can a charitable organisation or foundation actually do for me if I appoint it as my heir? And we ask what taxes, fees and costs actually arise in the context of a will. This video is in German. English subtitles available.


Title: Legacy to charitable organisation, tax allowances, costs
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Estate planning advice: Who to rely on

Formulating a will with complex regulations is a challenge. If you want to be sure that your last will and testament is legally secure and will actually be implemented, you should seek advice. Lawyer, notary, tax advisor, bank or charitable organisation - who helps with which questions? An overview.

Guest article by the online magazine Prinzip Apfelbaum, based on the article published therein "Nachlassberatung: Auf wen Verlass ist" by Lars Klaaßen, published in issue 14. You can read all articles and issues of the online magazine free of charge at:

Paper and pen, that's all you need to write a handwritten will. For it to be valid, there are only a few formal things to observe - in theory. In practice, such a handwritten will is often not advisable without advice. German inheritance law is complicated. There are many pitfalls that can cause major problems for the heirs and lead to disputes. Especially those who leave higher assets and real estate and want to leave to a larger group of people should seek help. But where can you find independent advice and who is the right contact person?

Tax advice for financial issues

A well-planned succession is a matter of trust. With regard to financial questions, the tax advisor is therefore often the first port of call. They already have a good insight into personal and asset circumstances. Those who want to take inheritance and gift tax and the corresponding allowances for their descendants into consideration will receive information here on how best to divide up the estate. Advice on tax law is also important for the transfer of business assets.

Inheritance law advice only from a lawyer

Tax advisors are usually also familiar with inheritance law. However, the borderline to inadmissible legal advice is quickly crossed. "Anyone who wants to draw up a will should therefore consult a specialist lawyer for inheritance law," recommends Jan Bittler, Managing Director of the German Association for Inheritance Law and Property Succession. "These specialists bring comprehensive legal know-how to the table, so that all ambiguities are cleared up and the risk of later legal disputes is minimised." It is also important to build up a relationship of trust with your lawyer, Bittler emphasises. "Friends and acquaintances can give helpful recommendations in the search. However, the personal impression always remains decisive."

Notary guarantees the correct form

Inheritance lawyers represent the interests of their clients. They show different variants of how to formulate one's last will so that it is implemented according to one's own ideas. The lawyers explain advantages and disadvantages and give recommendations. Notarising the will, on the other hand, is the task of notaries. They guarantee that the document is legally correct. They are not obliged to explain alternatives that might be more suitable for implementing the last will.

When it comes to money - or debt

An inheritance usually consists of money and tangible assets. "In the case of money held in accounts and savings books or in cash, the valuation is clear. After deducting any debts and liabilities, the amount that is inherited is fixed," says Thomas Rienecker, spokesman for the German Savings Banks and Giro Association. "With tangible assets and real estate, however, it quickly becomes a little more complicated." In this case, the market value is used as a guide: in the case of cars, for example, by comparing them on Internet portals; in the case of jewellery or works of art, an expert often has to estimate the value.

Debts can also be inherited. These can be, for example, rent arrears, instalment credits or liabilities from loans. "The deceased's debts are deducted from the value of the estate," explains Rienecker. "If the bottom line is negative, the heirs can disclaim the inheritance - but only within six weeks of learning of the inheritance."

For a good cause: talking to each other

People who want to support a good cause with their inheritance should personally contact the association or foundation they want to support. "There you can get more general information and clarify initial important questions," explains Susanne Anger, spokesperson for the initiative Mein Erbe tut Gutes. It is possible to specify exactly for what purpose the bequest or inheritance is to be used. "Non-profit organisations and foundations are reliable heirs. One should discuss with them whether the desired funding possibilities exist in the longer term so that the last will and testament can really be fulfilled," advises Anger. Associations and foundations sometimes also take on tasks that would otherwise often be the responsibility of heirs: Burial, grave maintenance, flat clearance or the care of the beloved pet. A personal conversation is the best way to clarify these possibilities.

Non-profit organisations and foundations are not allowed to provide legal advice. However, they often arrange contact with inheritance law advice or issue vouchers for an initial consultation. "Another nice side effect is that non-profit organisations and foundations are exempt from inheritance tax," says Anger. "The allotted estate, whether small or large, does good and goes one to one."

Article originally published at

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Sabine Günther
© Kerstin Sauer

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Ms Sabine Günther
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Tel: +49 7732 9272 17

I hope that others will act in a similar way and realise how urgent it is to make a stand for nature conservation. Nature can’t lobby for itself and it is being trampled underfoot! I hope that people will come to the realisation that creation is a precious thing in itself and must be preserved in an enduring way. We need to make sure there is some money left over for this too.

Stefan Heitmann portrait Stefan Heitmann, retired teacher from Düsseldorf, left a legacy to EuroNatur in his will.