We specialise in Heir Hunting, German Probate, Asset Tracing and Estate Administration in Germany
Since its formation in 2003, the German law office Graf & Partners (www.graflegal.com) has assisted thousands of international clients with finding heirs and beneficiaries in Germany as well as locating assets like German property (houses, flats, plots of land) and bank accounts (more on this in the links below).
We are lawyers, not just heir hunters. Which means we can actually provide legal advice on German succession law, apply for German probate, act as executors or administrators on your behalf, administer the German estate and – if necessary – sell German property. Pure (non lawyer) heir hunter firms charge you up to 30% of the entire estate value merely for “telling you” who the relative is that you have inherited from. In cross-border inheritance matters, such heir hunters are often only qualified to assess the situation in one jurisdiction, not both. Whch can lead to catastrophic probate and inheritance tax results.
Probate and Estate Administration in Germany
Why is probate so much different in Germany? Well, first of all, German succession law does NOT appy the concept of “personal representative”, i.e. there is no executor or administrator. Instead, the beneficiaries (called “Erben”, i.e. heirs) administer the estate themselves, directly. Sounds great? Well, yes, but the downside is that the heirs become liable for any debts of the deceased if they do not renounce the inheritance within 6 weeks from having been informed that they are a heir. More on this here: https://www.crosschannellawyers.co.uk/?s=inherit+debts
Furthermore, Germany is infamous for having very strict data protection and confidentiality laws. Land registry information, for example, is extremely difficult to obtain. More on this here: https://www.crosschannellawyers.co.uk/search-for-property-information-from-german-land-registry/
The same is true for bank accounts in Germany. Unless you can present a German bank with German (!) grant of probate, they will virtually tell you nothing. Not even if the the deceased has held any investment with the specific German bank. More on this here: https://www.crosschannellawyers.co.uk/how-to-find-german-bank-accounts/
How to deal with a German Estate?
More on succession law and German probate by the international succession law experts of Graf & Partners LLP:
- Most Germans die without a Will (German Intestacy Rules)
- The Perils of German IHT and Gift Tax
- Basics of German Inheritance and Succession Law
- Executors and Trustees in German Inheritance Law
- How to apply for a German Grant of Probate
- The Infamous German Community of Heirs – And how to avoid it
- International Wills and Estate Planning for British-German Families
- Prove German Wills for English Probate
- Disputed Wills and Contentious Probate in Germany
- Disinherit your no-good children? Not so easy in Germany
- Don’t be afraid of Clients with Foreign Assets!
- Can foreign Taxes be set off against UK Inheritance Tax?
Or simply click on the “German Probate” section in the right column of this blog.
The law firm Graf & Partners and its German-English litigation department 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. 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.