German Law: Inheritance and Probate in Germany

Basic Information in English on German probate and inheritance law.

German inheritance law offers that decedent’s property passes straight to the beneficiaries at the time of death. Under German law the exact same guideline uses to decedent’s responsibilities. As a result, besides assets you may likewise inherit financial obligations in Germany. But it is possible to disclaim an inheritance in Germany.
There is no US-style probate in Germany and, typically, there is no court supervised administration of decedent’s estate in Germany. Under German law a will might name an executor and supply for subsequent estate administration, but a lot of wills in Germany do not.

There are no living trusts under German law. Germany is a civil law jurisdiction which does not recognize trusts. There will be no trustee taking title to decedent’s assets in Germany.
If you are a successor under German law depends on whether decedent left a will. If there is no will you may be a successor at law under German law of intestate succession. If there is a will, in many cases, you will just be a beneficiary if decedent named you explicitly, 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 possession or control of a will is required to send it to the Court where decedent was domiciled. The Court will inform you if you are a beneficiary under the will, or an heir at law. Even if there is no will heirs regularly need to obtain letters of inheritance which are necessary to transfer title to inherited property in Germany, and generally needed to settle savings account and claims in Germany. As soon as the Court gets an application it will inform the beneficiaries at law. If the identity of the successors is not clear the Court might use private investigators to find and call possible heirs.
Once you have understanding that you have become a beneficiary at law, or under decedent’s will, you have six weeks to disclaim the inheritance, if you have not currently accepted it. Heirs who live abroad, or are abroad at the time of death, take advantage of a prolonged duration. If you reside in the United States you have six months to disclaim an inheritance in Germany. Please note that specific 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 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 beneficiary and each recipient is taxed individually. Tax rates and exemptions differ. They depend on the degree of kinship and the amount acquired. You will have to file an inheritance tax return in Germany.