A deceased person had assets in Germany, but you’re not sure where?
Sometimes, in international inheritance cases, the surviving relatives or the executors know (or at least suspect) that the deceased has owned a bank account, stock portfolio or safe deposit box in Germany, but they don’t know with which bank and in which German city. The deceased may have spoken about it to a relative or friend while he was alive, or may have mentioned such German assets in the will or in a diary, but without giving any specific details like bank name or account number. What is the best approach to locate such an unknown German bank account?
Write to each individual German bank?
In these cases, if the heirs or executors have an idea which German banks might be relevant, they can write directly to those institutions.
If, however, it can be any German bank, of which there are quite many, especially if you include all private banks, Sparkassen as well as Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken (see this list), the more pragmatic approach is not to contact each of them individually, but instead to make one central research enquiry with the Bundesverband deutscher Banken (Association of German Banks) in Berlin to locate any German bank account, stock portfolio or savings account. The association will then in turn forward the enquiries to all their members, i.e. to each German financial institution. We will be happy to draft such a letter to the Association.
Death Certificate and German Grant of Probate necessary
Either way, whether you write to individual German banks directly or to the Association, you will only receive a response if you provide them with:
- a certified and legalised copy of the death certificate (plus translation if not in German) and
- a grant of probate recognised in Germany, i.e. either an EU Certificate of Succession (EU Nachlasszeugnis, more on this here) or a German Certificate of Inheritance (Erbschein), for details see here
Without these documents, the enquiry will be rejected.
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More on German inheritance law and the German probate procedure in this post and these videos:
The law firm Graf & Partners and its German-English litigation department GP Civil Procedure Experts 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 ininternational succession matters, probate and inheritance law, including international litigation. 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.