A 95-year-old German baroness cut her daughter out of her will and decided to give her estate worth millions to a lawyer – but her will has raised suspicions after it was shakily written “in old man writing” on a single sheet of paper.
The baroness’ adopted daughter sued and claiming that her mother was suffering from dementia when the will was written in 2016 to name her lawyer – former Bavarian Finance Minister Georg von Waldenfels, 76 – as her sole heir.
The estate is called Gut Feilitzsch and is located in Upper Franconia, in the southern German state of Bavaria. It has a long and rich history and is known as the headquarters of one of the first Lutheran aristocratic houses.
Its last owner, Baroness Luise von Feilitzsch, died two years ago at the age of 95 and ever since there has been an inheritance dispute over her estate.
The property is worth between EUR 3 and 6 million (GBP 2.5 and 5.1 million), according to German daily Bild.
The baroness is said to have changed her will a number of times and the last one, dated June 2016, is barely more than a single sentence long.
The baroness adopted Berkley, 55, as her daughter in 2010, before making her lawyer her sole heir in 2016.
Lawyer Bernhard Schmeilzl, who is representing the disinherited daughter, said: “It is not forbidden for a lawyer to allow his client to use him as an heir but in this case a lot of people would call it inheritance trickery.”
Berkley is also married to a member of the Feilitzsch dynasty, Heribert von Feilitzsch, 55, and they both live in the United States. She lost her mother when she was 20 and the baroness at first wanted to leave her estate to her.
Schmeilzl is quoted by Bild as saying: “If a lady with medically diagnosed, advanced dementia in a shaky old man’s handwriting (…) suddenly appoints the lawyer to be the sole heir, then from my point of view it leaves an unsavoury taste.”
But he added that he had not tried to have the will overturned because “the burden of proof is insanely high in cases of testamentary inability.”
Former Bavarian Finance Minister von Waldenfels told Bild: “I’ve been closely connected to the family for over 50 years.”
But now it has been decided that he will have to pay Berkley 50 per cent of the value of the property after it was decided to base the inheritance on a previous will in which the adopted daughter was already no longer the sole heir to the estate.
Now experts will have to work out how much the property is worth as this will determine how much the former Bavarian Finance Minister has to pay Berkley von Feilitzsch.
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