Fundamental Info in English on German probate and inheritance law.
German inheritance law offers that decedent’s property passes directly to the successors at the time of death. Under German law the same guideline uses to decedent’s commitments. Consequently, besides properties you may likewise inherit financial obligations in Germany. However it is possible to disclaim an inheritance in Germany.
There is no US-style probate in Germany and, generally, there is no court supervised administration of decedent’s estate in Germany. Under German law a will may name an executor and attend to subsequent estate administration, however the majority of wills in Germany do not.
There are no living trusts under German law. Germany is a civil law jurisdiction which does not acknowledge trusts. There will be no trustee taking title to decedent’s assets in Germany.
If you are an heir under German law depends upon whether decedent left a will. If there is no will you may be a beneficiary at law under German law of intestate succession. If there is a will, in many cases, you will only be an heir if decedent called you clearly, or implicitly. If you are not an heir under the will, German law supplies that you may still be entitled to a forced share of the inheritance, even if decedent meant to leave out you.
How do you learn that you may have made an inheritance in Germany? Anybody who remains in ownership or control of a will is needed to send it to the Court where decedent was domiciled. The Court will notify you if you are a beneficiary under the will, or a successor at law. Even if there is no will beneficiaries often need to get letters of inheritance which are essential to transfer title to inherited property in Germany, and normally required to settle savings account and claims in Germany. Once the Court receives an application it will inform the heirs at law. If the identity of the successors is unclear the Court might use private investigators to discover and call possible heirs.
Once you have knowledge that you have become a beneficiary at law, or under decedent’s will, you have six weeks to disclaim the inheritance, if you have actually not currently accepted it. Successors who live abroad, or are abroad at the time of death, advantage from an extended period. If you reside in the US you have 6 months to disclaim an inheritance in Germany. Please note that particular acts may imply acceptance of an inheritance under German law. If you accept an inheritance in Germany you may be personally liable for decedent’s debts with your own assets.
Most likely, you will deal with estate tax liability in Germany. Germany, unlike the US, does not tax the estate. Each heir and each recipient is taxed separately. Tax rates and exemptions vary. They depend upon the degree of kinship and the amount acquired. You will have to submit an estate tax return in Germany.