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EXPLAINED: How to make a will in Austria

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.

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 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. 

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.

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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For members

VIENNA

From rent to bills: How much money do I need to live in Vienna?

Vienna is known for having an affordable cost of living, but how much does it actually cost residents to live there? Here’s how much you need to earn to cover the basics in Vienna.

From rent to bills: How much money do I need to live in Vienna?

Vienna is famous for its high standard of living and has often been named as the world’s most liveable city. 

A big part of this can be put down to the city’s social housing policy – a move described by the Financial Times as “radical”.

Around 60 percent of Vienna’s residents live in subsidised housing and the City of Vienna is Europe’s biggest public owner of social housing. But unlike other cities around the world, social housing in Vienna is typically of high quality and also available for middle class families and professionals. 

FOR MEMBERS: Water, waste collection, parking: How Vienna will get more expensive in 2023

And due to the high level of social housing, rents in the private sector in Vienna have not risen to levels seen in places like London and New York where city centres are now only affordable for wealthy people.

But even though Vienna might be considered as a “cheap” place to live for some, there is still a minimum amount that residents need to earn in order to live in the city and sustain a reasonable lifestyle.

Rent: €13.80 to €17.90 per square metre

A recent report by Immowelt shows the average cost of an apartment in Vienna’s city centre, or 1st District, is €17.90 per sqm. This means the average monthly price to rent a 60 sqm apartment is €1,074.

However, the city centre is the most expensive part of Vienna, so there are more affordable places to live. 

Cheaper districts include Leopoldstadt (€14.70 per sqm), Mariahilf (€15.30) and Favoriten (€14.50). The cheapest district is Rudolphsheim Fünfhaus with an average rental cost of €13.80 per sqm.

But data from Statista shows rent prices in Vienna have already gone up. In January 2023, the average cost per square metre in the city centre was €21.88. The cheapest district was Hernals at €14.43.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

Utilities: €150 to €200 per month

The cost of energy has been rising across Austria for months due to high inflation, so it’s hard to predict how much the average cost of utilities in Vienna will be.

Also, around 440,000 homes in Vienna are warmed by district heating – a huge pipeline heating system that is 50 percent powered by waste heat from power plants, industrial waste and biomass. The rest is generated by natural gas.

But this doesn’t mean Vienna’s residents have been shielded from the effects of inflation. 

In September 2022, Wien Energie – the city’s main energy provider – announced the price of district heating will go up by an average of €45 per month. As a result, the estimated average monthly bill (based on a 70 sqm home) was reported to be around €145 per month.

For those not on district heating, a two-person household can expect to pay around €150 per month for gas and electricity.

Also, from January 1st 2023, the cost of water supply, wastewater and waste disposal has gone up in Vienna.

The fee increase means a monthly adjustment of approximately €2.90 for an average multi-person household. For an average single household, the monthly fee adjustment is approximately €1.30. 

Calculated over the year, this results in an additional burden of approximately €35 or €15.60 – per household and year.

READ MORE: Reader question: When will I get my 2023 Klimabonus payment in Austria?

Transport: €30 per month

Vienna’s transport system is extensive with buses, trains (including underground lines) and trams. It is also very affordable.

In fact, public transport in Vienna can cost as little as €1 per day for people that purchase an annual ticket from Wiener Linien, the city’s public transport operator.

A single ticket for Wiener Linien transport (bus, tram, metro and local trains) costs €2.40.

Groceries: €200

The cost of groceries in Austria varies depending on where you shop.

For people on a budget, shopping at discounters such as Hofer (Austria’s Aldi), as well as at international supermarkets, is a good idea. 

At these cheaper supermarkets, it shouldn’t be too hard to cover monthly food shopping for a single-person household for around €200 per month. Although prices have been going up in all supermarkets due to inflation.

Childcare: €72 per month

Childcare in Austria is heavily subsidised by the government and even more so in the capital. This includes nurseries (for children up to the age of three) and kindergartens (from age three to six).

In Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee. Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 

This is in stark contrast to some other European countries, like the UK.

According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery in the UK is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. 

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Is it cheaper to buy or to rent property in Austria?

Total monthly budget for essentials: €1,500 for city centre

If you’re planning to live in the city centre (and you don’t have kids), then you should budget around €1,500 a month to pay for essentials.

Of course, this becomes cheaper if you choose to live in another district, are frugal with food shopping and conscious of how much energy you use.

This cost can also go up if you have a family and need to rent a bigger apartment, so keep these points in mind when negotiating a salary.

Leisure and social time

Life is about more than simply paying for the essentials – especially in a city like Vienna.

Here’s what you can expect to pay for going out and enjoying yourself in the city.

Domestic beer: €4.20

Glass of wine: €3-€5

Cappuccino: €3.57

Cinema ticket: €11

Gym membership: €30 per month

Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant: €50-€90

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