If a person dies without having drawn up a will or another testamentary disposition, intestate succession applies.
Although there are many opportunities to transfer one's estate in Austria - there is no obligation to do so. Therefore, it is often the case that people die without having left a testamentary disposition, such as a will.
The regulations on intestate succession are connected with the kinship of a person to the deceased. This means that the estate of the deceased will automatically go to his/her relatives or surviving spouse, or to his/her registered partner. Illegitimate children are on a par with legitimate children. Since 1 January 2017, subject to certain requirements, the life partner also has an extraordinary legal right of inheritance.
A legal heir is aligned with the so-called "Parentelensystem" [kinship system]:
Level 1 kinship: Direct heirs: biological and adopted children; alternatively, grandchildren
Level 2 kinship: Second-level heirs: Parents and alternatively their descendants (siblings, nephews, nieces)
Level 3 kinship: Third-level heirs: Grandparents of the deceased and alternatively their descendants (aunts/uncles, cousins, second cousins)
Level 4 kinship: Fourth-level heirs: Great-grandparents, but not their descendants.
The kinship follows a set order, i.e. a person of level 2 kinship (e.g. parents) can only inherit, if there are no other people of level 1 kinship (e.g. a child).
The extent of the inheritance rights of the spouse or registered partner depends on whether there are other living relatives of the deceased and their level of kinship. In addition to the first level of kinship, i.e. the children of the person making the disposition and their descendants, the spouse or registered partner will receive one third; in addition to the parents of the deceased, the spouse or registered partner will receive two thirds.
In all other cases, the spouse will be entitled to the entire inheritance.
Even if you specify in a testamentary disposition who should receive your estate: Forced heirship poses a limit. This means that close relatives (referred to as persons entitled to a compulsory portion) thus receive a compulsory minimum portion, the compulsory portion, of the estate - even if they have not been taken into consideration in the will.
The persons entitled to a compulsory portion are the children and their descendants, as well as the spouse or registered partner of the deceased. Parents and grandparents are no longer entitled to a compulsory portion
Whether or not there is any entitlement to a compulsory portion depends on whether the person is entitled to a part of the inheritance by law, has not been disinherited or has renounced his/her compulsory portion.
It is absolutely recommended to rely on competent advice from a notary or a solicitor. In case of any questions please do not hesitate to consult an expert about this.