About German inheritance law - 06.2018

You have come into an inheritance which is subject to German law? That is certainly no misfortune. But, if you should have no idea about German law and you are even not familiar with the German language you might face a challenge: Maybe with others involved, maybe with the formal requirements, which must be followed.

Therefore, we want to give you a short overview about some general principles:

Does German law apply?

Under the European succession regulation the German rules will apply, if the deceased was a habitually resident of Germany. But even if the deceased was more closly connected to another state, German inheritance law may apply to immovable property, which is located in Germany.

How and when does one become a heir?

Just a Third of the people in Germany make a last will, in which they appoint their heirs. In case of intestacy (if their is no or no valid last will) the German law rules that the spouse and the offsprings of the deceased are called as heir. But the results can differ. Especially the marital property regime plays a key role in answering the question of legal succession. If their is neither a spouse nor an offspring the closest relative becomes the legal heir.

The most important things to consider

The moment you find out, that you are appointed as heir you need to act immediately. The reason ist the German principal of universal succession. The heir acquires immediately and directly all assets and even all liabilities of the deceased, or to put in other words:

The second the devisor dies all rights and obligations are automatically transferred onto the heir. Additionally, the heir just has 6 weeks of time to renounce the inheritance. If he doesn´t, he will step into the shoes of the deceased; even if the inheritance should be overindebted.

So, you better don´t waste time to gather informations and documents about the assets and liabilities of the inheritance.

If you need help or further information about your legal position, please don´t hesitate to contact us