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EXPLAINED: How to make a will in Austria

Hayley Maguire
Hayley Maguire - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: How to make a will in Austria
International residents are allowed to make a will in Austria, according to Austrian law. (Photo by Huy Phan / Pexels)

Making a will can be a daunting process, especially when living overseas. The Local spoke with lawyer Maximilian Harnoncourt to understand more about getting your affairs in order as an international resident in Austria. Here's what you need to know.

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Making a will in Austria

Under Austrian law, a will is a legal document that states who should inherit which assets when someone dies.

According to the legal website Erbrecht-ABC, the easiest way to make a will is for someone to write it themselves by hand and then sign it. This is known as eigenhändiges Testament and can be done without the presence of a notary, lawyer or witness.

A will can also be typed (fremdhändiges Testament) but still has to contain, “This is my last will and testament” in handwriting. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria

In the case of a typed will, the law states it must be witnessed by three people who then sign the document.

Then there are notarial or judicial wills, although these types of will are rare. 

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Any special process to be aware of?

Lawyer Maximilian Harnoncourt, from Schneider & Schneider Rechtsanwalts, said that anyone making a will in Austria should formally register it with a notary or lawyer so that it can be submitted to the Austrian Central Register of Wills

Harnoncourt told The Local: "The advantage of going to a lawyer or a notary is that professionals will make sure that the formal requirements are met and that your will is valid.

"Since lawyers and notaries are obliged to record the will in a register, you have the guarantee that the will is actually taken into account after your death."

However, it's worth noting that the Central Register of Wills does not contain actual wills. Instead, a lawyer submits an official record of the creation and filing of the will to ensure that when someone dies, the will can be found.

READ NEXT: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Austria and stay long-term

Can foreigners make a will in Austria?

Under Austrian law, anyone living in the country (even international residents) can make a will.

Harnoncourt said: "In principle, people living in Austria can make a will according to Austrian laws and are treated the same as Austrians."

But the validity of an Austrian will overseas depends on where the person was living when they died or if there are additional assets to be considered, as Harnoncourt explains.

He said: "Whether a will is valid abroad can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. The question is mostly relevant if you move to another country or if there are assets in another country.

"In principle, in the EU (there are special rules for Denmark and Ireland), a will is also valid in another EU country if it is valid according to the regulations of the country in which it was made.

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last will and testament

(Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash)

"However, you should always seek advice from a lawyer if you have significant assets abroad or if you intend to move your residence to a non-EU country."

So, is it actually worthwhile for international residents to make a will in Austria?

Harnoncourt says yes - especially if you want to distribute your estate differently to Austrian inheritance laws (more on that below), or if there are special instructions.

He said: "As an international resident you can choose whether Austrian laws or the laws of your citizenship shall apply. For example, to avoid mandatory portions going to children under Austrian laws."

FOR MEMBERS: Everything you need to know about Austrian inheritance laws

What is Austria’s inheritance law?

In Austria, if a will is not made, the entire estate will go to the heirs due to Austrian succession of inheritance laws.

This means the children (or grandchildren) will inherit two thirds of an estate, while the spouse is eligible for one third. Since 2017, parents are no longer included in forced heirship (known as Pflichtteilsrecht) in Austria.

If there are no heirs or life partner, then the Federal Government handles the estate of the deceased.

Additionally, there is no inheritance tax in Austria, but there is a real estate transfer tax, which is 3.5 percent of the purchase price of a property.

How much does it cost to make a will?

As with most things related to law, making a will is not free. But the costs can vary depending on the type of will made and whether you need legal advice.

The Austrian federal government website states there is a one-time fee of between €300 to €500 to hire a notary and register a will. This covers the cost of advice, professional drafting, filing and registration in the Central Register of Wills.

The cost of filing a will that is handwritten without any legal advice is around €100, plus expenses and sales tax.

The cost of hiring a lawyer to handle a will can vary and there will still be a one-time fee to submit the will into the Central Register of Wills.

Useful vocabulary

Will - das Testament

Inheritance - das Erbe

Notary - der Notar

Lawyer - der Rechtsanwalt

Useful links

Find a notary in Austria at notar.at.

Austrian Bar Association (Österreichischer Rechtsanwaltskammertag)

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