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German Succession & Inheritance Law

German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

What is called a Cousin in English may be called a Nephew in German

"False Friends" in Anglo-German Kinship Terminology This sometimes creates confusion in British-German inheritance cases. Especially when there exists a German Certificate of Inheritance which lists nieces or nephews as beneficiaries. Because these persons would (in most cases) be called cousins in English, which can lead to queries by the English probate commissioner, because he / she will assume that the probate application has been filled out incorrectly. So, to avoid confusion, one should explain to…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
February 6, 2015
German LawGerman ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

Prove German Wills for English Probate

Are German wills recognised in Britain? To an English lawyer, a German style will is shockingly short and informal. Typical wording in a German will would be: "Testament: I appoint as my sole heir my dear son Franz Meyer. Munich, 24 December 2000, Fritz Meyer" Even the following text would satisfy the German Probate court that it constitutes a fully valid German will: "My Wife gets everything. Hans Muller" Yes, this is a valid German…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
January 23, 2015
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

Tracing Overseas Assets

Are you dealing with a deceased relative or other person’s estate and are unsure if they have any assets in Germany? After a death, it’s often the case that the deceased may have spent many years in another country, perhaps with the services or through a holiday home or extended family ties. They may potentially have assets there that are not immediately obvious. Tracking down potential bank accounts, property and other assets can be difficult…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
November 28, 2014
German LawGerman ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance LawGerman Tax Law

Not only German Grant of Probate …

... is necessary for a foreign beneficiary to be able access the German estate. In addition to a Certificate of Inheritance (details here) the banks, insurance companies or other third parties that hold assets of the deceased will demand to see a Certificate of Non-Objection or Tax Clearance Certificate (in German called "Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung") issued by the German Tax authorities (Finanzamt). The reason for this is that according to Section 20 para. 6 German Inheritance Tax…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
September 23, 2014
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

How to renounce (disclaim) Inheritance in Germany

Doing nothing can make you liable for your dead German relative's debts In most cases it is considered rather good news to inherit an estate. However, if the deceased was heavily indebted it may be a different story. This is especially dangerous in Germany due to the principle of universal succession, according to which the heir receives the estate automatically (details here). What needs to be done to renounce a German inheritance? The heir must…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 22, 2014
Civil actionGerman ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

Disputed Wills and Contentious Probate in Germany

German Litigation Expert Bernhard Schmeilzl of Graf Legal explains the Basics of Contentious Probate If it is unclear whether a last will is valid, it can get messy between the potential beneficiaries. In Germany, this is even more so because -- in contrast to the UK -- German law knows no administration of the estate by a personal representative. Instead, the heirs (in German: Erben) have the right to administer the estate themselves. Due to…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 11, 2014
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance LawGerman Tax Law

Can foreign Taxes be set off against UK Inheritance Tax?

Unilateral Inheritance Tax Relief in British-German Probate Matters If a legator was domiciled (or legally deemed to be domiciled) in the UK and possessed assets in other countries, then HMRC will levy inheritance tax on the entire estate, i.e. all assets worldwide (see here). The problem is: Other jurisdictions may employ an entirely different inheritance tax system and also demand inheritance tax. Germany, for example, does not use domicile but citizenship (nationality) and residency to…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 4, 2014
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance LawGerman Tax Law

How to apply for a German Grant of Probate

First, you need to make the right choice about which German Grant to apply for The German equivalent of a UK Grant of Probate is the Certificate of Inheritance (Erbschein). Less common is its “little brother”, the Certificate of Executorship (Testamentsvollstreckerzeugnis). Both documents are issued by the Nachlassgericht which is the probate department of the respective local District Court (Amtsgericht). Who needs an Erbschein? As we have explained here, German law applies the principle of…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
June 30, 2014
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

German heirs are personally liable for all debts relating to deceased relatives

How to renounce the debts of your late relative As we have previously explained here German inheritance law applies the principle of universal succession (Gesamtrechtsnachfolge), which means that the heir (or a community of heirs if more than one person is designated as heir) directly steps into the shoes of a German decedent at the moment of that decedent’s death, under German estate and succession law. All rights and obligations are transferred automatically. There is…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 18, 2013
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance LawGerman Tax Law

UK Citizens with Property in Germany: Do I need a separate Will?

The Basics of British-German Inheritance Cases When a British expat lives in Germany for some time, he or she will most probably have a German bank account and other German assets, maybe even have bought property over here. The majority of these British expats have never thought about the inheritance law implications of such foreign assets. They simply assume that UK law applies. This is, however, not always the case. Especially if German probate law…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 1, 2013