Patchwork families: making property inheritances easier with a will

What will my partner’s child inherit, and what will go to my daughter from my first marriage? Like many others, patchwork families often fail to make sufficient preparations when it comes to inheritances – despite the fact that this kind of domestic arrangement in particular can quickly result in unfair outcomes. This is why experts recommend drawing up a will.

Legal experts recommend that patchwork families draw up a will. This is because intestacy law can quickly result in a relatively unequal distribution of the inheritance. The following example demonstrates how rapidly things can become unfair when it comes to inheritances in patchwork families. A divorced man and a divorced woman get married. Each of them has two children from their previous marriage. The man enters the marriage with a fortune of 100,000 euros, the woman with 200,000 euros.

Intestacy law can be unfair

If the woman dies first, then – as her spouse – the man inherits 50 per cent of her fortune, i.e. 100,000 euros. The other half is divided between the woman’s children, who thus each receive 50,000 euros. The man’s children receive nothing. Non-adopted children are entitled to neither a mandatory share nor an inherited share. If the man now dies, his entire fortune – which now stands at 200,000 euros – then goes to his two children. They each receive 100,000 euros. The woman’s children receive nothing.

If the man dies first, his two children receive 25,000 euros each, while his wife receives 50,000 euros. If she then dies, her two children each receive 125,000 euros. Intestacy law and the order in which the spouses die can thus lead to unfair outcomes. If the second marriage results in more children, things become even more complicated.

Settle the inheritance with a will

To avoid such unfairness, it is advisable to settle the inheritance with a will. Legal experts suggest the option where the parents initially list themselves as sole inheritors, and that after the death of both spouses, the children are to inherit an equal share. However, one must here also take account of the mandatory share which the children of the deceased parent can claim. In any case, you should seek the advice of a legal expert concerning your specific situation.

Property inheritance within a patchwork family

When it comes to a shared property in particular, you should draw up a will. This is because, if one spouse dies, their children and the remaining spouse form the community of heirs and are registered as the property’s owners in the Land Register. This means that every decision concerning the property – selling, letting, re-mortgaging – requires the consent of the step-children. If the children are still under-age, the deceased’s former spouse from their first marriage then also gets a say as the children’s guardian, and the whole situation is likely to become a matter for family court.


Are you uncertain what should happen with your property in the event of your death? Get in touch with us! We are happy to advise you.

Note: In this text, the generic masculine is used for better readability. Feminine and other gender identities are explicitly included to the extent necessary for the statement.

Legal note: This article does not constitute tax or legal advice in individual cases. Please have the facts of your specific individual case clarified by a lawyer and/or tax advisor.