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German Law: Inheritance and Probate in Germany

Fundamental Info in English on German probate and inheritance law.

German inheritance law provides that decedent’s property passes straight to the beneficiaries at the time of death. Under German law the very same rule uses to decedent’s obligations. Besides properties you might likewise inherit financial obligations in Germany. It is possible to disclaim an inheritance in Germany.
There is no US-style probate in Germany and, generally, there is no court supervised administration of decedent’s estate in Germany. Under German law a will may call an executor and offer 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 a successor under German law depends on 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, in many cases, you will only be a successor if decedent called you clearly, or implicitly. If you are not an heir under the will, German law provides that you may still be entitled to a forced share of the inheritance, even if decedent meant to leave out you.

How do you find out that you may have made an inheritance in Germany? Anyone who remains in belongings or control of a will is needed to send it to the Court where decedent was domiciled. The Court will notify you if you are a successor under the will, or a beneficiary at law. Even if there is no will heirs regularly need to obtain letters of inheritance which are necessary to transfer title to acquired property in Germany, and generally required to settle bank accounts and claims in Germany. When the Court receives an application it will notify the successors at law. If the identity of the heirs is not clear the Court may use investigators to discover and get in touch with possible heirs.
Once you have understanding that you have actually ended up being a successor at law, or under decedent’s will, you have six weeks to disclaim the inheritance, if you have not currently accepted it. Successors who live abroad, or are abroad at the time of death, take advantage of an extended duration. If you live in the United States you have six months to disclaim an inheritance in Germany. Please note that certain acts may indicate acceptance of an inheritance under German law. If you accept an inheritance in Germany you might be personally responsible for decedent’s financial obligations with your own assets.

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