How to Access German Assets without having to go through German Probate

There are Practical Alternatives to German Wills

German law provides for a number of legal tools which enable a testator to transfer some or all of his assets outside of the German probate rules, i.e. the transfer will then happen automatically upon the testator’s death. This has many advantages: No need for a will, nor a German grant of probate, i.e. no waiting period and no probate costs.

These tools are “conditional transfers in contemplation of death” (lebzeitige Verfügungen von Todes wegen) and are neither testamentary dispositions nor lifetime gifts. They are an ideal means for British citizens to transfer assets they may hold in Germany since their beneficiaries are not subject to German probate rules. Some of the options available under German inheritance law are:

  • Vertrag zugunsten Dritter auf den Todesfall, i.e. a provision for the benefit of a third party conditional upon the event of death.
  • Transzendentale Vollmacht, i.e. a power of attorney (power of authorisation) valid beyond death. This is a very popular legal instrument often used to avoid the need for German grant of probate.
  • aufschiebend bedingte Verfügungen / Übertragungen, i.e. a transfer of title conditional upon the event of death.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding: These transfers of assets outside of the estate are still subject to German inheritance tax and the German banks will require to see an official tax clearance certificate (more here) before releasing assets located in Germany.

cover-brochure-german-probateFor more information on German Probate, German Compulsary Share Rules and German Inheritance Tax please download our free brochure: German-Probate-and-German-Inheritance-Tax.

Or read the related post “Efficient Transfer of Foreign Assets” and the additional links listed there.

Or simply click on the “German Probate” section in the right side column of this blog.

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The law firm Graf & Partners and its German-English litigation department GP Chambers was established in 2003 and has many years of experience with British-German and US-German probate matters, including the representation of clients in contentious probate matters. We are experts in international succession matters, probate and inheritance law. If you wish us to advise or represent you in a German or cross border inheritance case please contact German solicitor Bernhard Schmeilzl, LL.M. (Leicester) at +49 941 463 7070.