Will and inheritance

In 2015, statistics showed 16,343 divorces. On the other hand, 28,853 marriages were contracted, indicating that family patterns constantly are thoroughly mixed. This requires a watchful eye when it comes to inheritance.

Yours, mine and our children – how to make provisions for them?

If you choose to financially secure each other as much as possible in the event of one’s death, you must at the same time also consider how to take your children into account – especially if you have children from a previous relationship (separate children).

This may be approached in several ways, and must be adapted to your individual needs and wishes. It may be beneficial to consult a legal adviser. Children from previous relationships may give cause for considerations that require decisions, for instance if you want to:

  • Retain undivided possession of an estate – this requires consent from children of previous relationships
  • Reduce inheritance to a child from a previous relationship, with whom, for instance, there is no contact
  • Place children from previous relationships on equal hereditary footing with the children of the present relationship.

Who is to inherit when death do you part?

Regardless of how your family is put together with spouse, cohabiting partner, joint, own or shared children, it is important to consider inheritance in time. This is if you want to decide for yourself who is to inherit what you have put aside through life. Naturally, it may be difficult to talk about death, but it provides peace of mind to get the matter settled before it is too late.

Who inherits if you have not made a will?

If you are married 

If you are married and have no children, your entire inheritance goes to your spouse. If you are married, and you have children, your spouse inherits half of your estate, while the other half goes to your children regardless of how many children you have.

If you are not married

If you are not married, fixed rules apply on who inherits what and how much when you die. Learn about the rules below:

Beneficiary class 1 – children and grandchildren
Beneficiary class 2 - parents, siblings, nephews and nieces
Beneficiary class 3 – grandparents, maternal aunts and uncles, paternal aunts and uncles

Have it your way with a will

A will is a legal document that determines how and on which terms your inheritance is to be distributed. If you would like an alternate distribution of inheritance than the one presented in the Danish Inheritance Act, you ought to draw up a will.

If you have beneficiaries entitled to an indefeasible portion of your estate under the Danish inheritance law (spouse or issue), you can however only control ¾ of what you leave (part of estate in excess of the legitimate portion). The remaining ¼ is the legitimate portion to which the spouse and descendants are entitled the indefeasible share.

You should consider drawing up a will if:
  • You are not married, but have a cohabiting partner who you would like to secure financially.
  • You have children from a previous marriage who are to inherit differently from what the Danish Inheritance Act prescribes.
  • You do not leave children, spouse or cohabiting partner, or if you want to include children-in-law, ex-spouse, cousins or a particular association or organisation.
  • You wish to ensure your spouse the financial possibility of deciding if he or she wishes to administer the estate in the event of your death.
You should consider a will if you want to:
  • Settle the inheritance for your beneficiaries (relevant if you have minor children or large property). The legitimate portion to which the spouse and descendants are entitled may only be settled until attaining the age of 25, while the part of estate in excess of the legitimate portion in principle may be settled for as long as desired.
  • The inheritance must belong to the recipient as separate property. This is for instance to ensure that your children will not be liable to share any inheritance from you with a potential spouse in case of separation/divorce or in the event of death. You may choose which type of separate property the inheritance is to be.

How to draw up a will

Will drawn up and signed before a notary
  • The will must be signed in front of a notary (court official). The notary confirms that you are who you say you are, and that you are of sound and disposing mind and memory. It is therefore difficult to contest the validity of a will drawn up and signed before a notary.
  • The will is registered with an individual court, thus ensuring that it automatically arrives at probate court in the event of your death.
  • The court fee for a will drawn up and signed before a notary is DKK 300
  • You may contact a city court in Denmark at your own option. Learn more at domstol.dk.
Will attested by witnesses

The will must be signed by two attesting witnesses. The witnesses must be independent (meaning that they cannot have a financial interest in the will).

Risk: The will attested by witnesses is not registered with a court, and it is easier to contest the validity.

Amendment or termination of a will must be done the same way as drawing up. You do not need to draw up a will to decide who is to inherit standard household effects. You simply need to write it on a piece of paper, which you date and sign.

How much can you decide with a will?

Below, you can find out who inherits if there is no will, and how much of the estate you can dispose of in a will:

*With an extended will that provides for the cohabiting partner, inheritance to a cohabiting partner may be increased to 7/8, resulting in inheritance equal to spouse.

A lawyer may help you

If you need additional guidance on inheritance and will, please contact a lawyer. This way, you will get an overview of your own situation and learn how you ensure your dependants the best way possible.