German Law: Inheritance and Probate in Germany

Fundamental Info in English on German probate and inheritance law.

German inheritance law offers that decedent’s property passes directly to the successors at the time of death. Under German law the same rule applies to decedent’s obligations. Besides assets you might likewise acquire financial obligations in Germany. It is possible to disclaim an inheritance in Germany.
There is no US-style probate in Germany and, usually, there is no court supervised administration of decedent’s estate in Germany. Under German law a will may call an executor and attend to subsequent estate administration, however many wills in Germany do not.

There are no living trusts under German law. Germany is a civil law jurisdiction which does not acknowledge trusts. There will be no trustee taking title to decedent’s possessions in Germany.
If you are an heir under German law depends upon whether decedent left a will. If there is no will you might be an heir at law under German law of intestate succession. If there is a will, most of the times, you will just be an heir if decedent named you clearly, or implicitly. If you are not an heir under the will, German law offers that you may still be entitled to a forced share of the inheritance, even if decedent intended to omit you.

How do you discover that you may have made an inheritance in Germany? Anybody who remains in belongings or control of a will is needed to submit it to the Court where decedent was domiciled. The Court will alert you if you are a beneficiary under the will, or a successor at law. Even if there is no will beneficiaries regularly need to request letters of inheritance which are necessary to transfer title to acquired property in Germany, and generally required to settle savings account and claims in Germany. Once the Court receives an application it will alert the beneficiaries at law. If the identity of the heirs is unclear the Court might utilize investigators to discover and contact possible heirs.
Once you have knowledge that you have become a successor at law, or under decedent’s will, you have six weeks to disclaim the inheritance, if you have actually not already accepted it. Beneficiaries who live abroad, or are abroad at the time of death, take advantage of an extended duration. If you reside in the US you have six months to disclaim an inheritance in Germany. Please note that certain acts might imply acceptance of an inheritance under German law. If you accept an inheritance in Germany you may be personally accountable for decedent’s debts with your own assets.

Most likely, you will deal with inheritance tax liability in Germany. Germany, unlike the US, does not tax the estate. Each heir and each beneficiary is taxed individually. Tax rates and exemptions vary. They depend upon the degree of kinship and the quantity inherited. You will need to submit an estate tax return in Germany.

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