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German Succession & Inheritance Law

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
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance LawGerman Tax Law

German Inheritance Tax Rates and Personal Tax Exempt Amounts

What is the German IHT Nil-Rate Band? German inheritance law, including inheritance tax law, works very differently from the UK system (for German probate see here and here). While in the UK the estate as such is taxed (with one single nil-rate band of currently 325k GBP being available as tax relief) you find a completely different inheritance tax concept in Germany: German tax authorities do not look at the estate but at the individual…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
July 1, 2013
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

Intestacy Rules in Germany

Who inherits in Germany if there's no valid will? German inheritance law works by the principle of universal and direct succession, i.e. the heirs automatically become the owners and possessors of the entire estate, i.e. all assets that the deceased had owned (by the way: they also inherit all the debts of the deceased). Details are explained here. Now, what happens if German law applies and there is no last will? It's fairly easy: Spouses…
Bernhard Schmeilzl
June 6, 2013
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

Executors and Trustees in German Inheritance Law

How estates are administered in Germany There exist, as we have explained here, fundamental differences between the inheritance law concepts of the UK and Germany. Since UK probate law requires a personal representative, many testators in the UK appoint an executor in their will. In Germany, however, where a "personal representative" is unknown due to the principle of universal succession, the inheritors come into ownership as well as into possession of the estate automatically and…
German ProbateGerman Succession & Inheritance Law

When a deceased UK Citizen owned Assets in Germany

How to get access to an Estate under German Inheritance Law When a UK citizen dies while having possessions in Germany (bank accounts, deposits, shares, insurance claims or property), one must first determine whether the estate is governed by German hereditary law and thus falls into the competence of German probate courts: Basically, both from a UK and a German legal perspective this depends on where the deceased was domiciled, i.e. the place where a…