Important Facts on German Laws of Succession and German Probate

Download the free brochure provided by the legal experts on international wills, cross border probate and British-German or US-German estate administration

German lawyer Bernhard Schmeilzl, LL.M. (Leicester) specialises in British-German and American-German inheritance law ever since his admission to the German bar association in 2001.

cover-brochure-german-probateTogether with his team of British and German succession and probate law experts he has compiled an easy to understand brochure “German Probate” which provides essential information on German inheritance law to British Solicitors and US lawyers as well as executors and administrators who need to deal with assets in Germany or who are faced with having to interpret German Wills. The brochure explains German intestacy rules, formal requirements on how to set up a German Will and the basics of the inheritance tax system. It is available for download here: German-Probate-and-German-Inheritance-Tax.

Some of the legal facts on German law explained in the brochure are:

  • Under German probate law, the estate of the deceased is not administered by a personal representative. Instead, the estate passes directly to the heirs due to the principles of automatic inheritance (Vonselbsterwerb) and universal succession (Gesamtrechtsnachfolge). If there are several heirs, they form a community of heirs (Erbengemeinschaft) and must act unanimously.
  • German heirs are personally liable for all debts of the deceased! In order to avoid personal liability they need to actively renounce their inheritance within 6 weeks of notification (6 months in cross-border cases).
  • Testamentary trusts are rarely used in Germany since they do not offer any advantages like under English law.
  • Post-death variations are not accepted by the German Tax Authorities. In fact, a deed of variation is most likely to be counterproductive as it may trigger additional taxes.
  • Payment of inheritance tax is independent of the application for a German Grant of Probate. However, banks will not release funds to foreign beneficiaries unless the German Tax Authorities have issued a clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeits-Bescheinigung).
  • Joint wills by spouses in one single document (Ehegattentestamente) and mutually binding testamentary agreements (Erbverträge) are allowed under German probate law and are commonly used.
  • The appointment of an executor in a will is possible but not very common.

For more information on cross border probate matters and international will preparation see the below posts by the international succession law experts of Graf & Partners LLP:

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

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Solicitor_SchmeilzlThe 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 ininternational 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.

Compensation for a wrecked Car under the German Law of Torts

Car Accidents: How are Damages calculated under German Law?

Each year, German police registers 2.2 million traffic accidents (for official 2016 stats see here). German insurers, lawyers and Courts are thus constantly faced with the question how to calculate damage claims after a car accident has occured.

If the car can still be repaired, the matter is fairly simple. The Defendant must pay for the costs for a state of the art repair plus the so called “merkantilen Minderwert”, i.e. the reduction in market value due to the fact that the car has been involved in an accident, even if the car has been repaired.

What if the car is beyond repair or the costs would be unreasonably high?

The general principle under German law is that in case of a “write off” (Totalschaden, i.e. if economically it makes no sense to repair the car), then the Claimant is entitled to the so called “Wiederbeschaffungswert”, i.e. the amount necessary to purchase a substitute car with identical value of the damaged car, minus what the Claimant may have received as scrap value payment for the damaged car (if anything). Mostly, experts and lawyers refer to the so called “Schwacke Liste“, a German company which since 1957 publishes lists with the current market value of virtually every car out there. This being used as a first point of reference. The individual condition of the car before it was damaged is then taken into account.

In addition to that “Wiederbeschaffungswert” (replacement purchase value), the Claimant can (only) demand interim car hire costs for a reasonable period, i.e. for the time which the Claimant needs to look for a suitable replacement car and purchase it.

More on civil litigation and evidence rules in German Courts of law and before German arbitration tribunals:

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The law firm Graf & Partners was established in 2003 and has many years of experience with British-German and US-German legal matters.The Anglo-German litigation lawyer team of GP Chambers is well equipped to advise and represent clients from the UK and other English speaking countries. If you wish us to advise or represent you in a German or cross border case, or if you need an expert report on German law, please contact German lawyer Bernhard Schmeilzl, LL.M. (Leicester), managing partner and head of the litigation department. Bernhard is also frequently asked by British and US Courts and Tribunals or by legal counsels to provide expert reports and legal opinions on German law.