Standard Details in English on German probate and inheritance law.
German inheritance law supplies that decedent’s property passes directly to the heirs at the time of death. Under German law the very same rule uses to decedent’s responsibilities. As a result, besides assets you may also acquire financial obligations in Germany. It is possible to disclaim an inheritance in Germany.
There is no US-style probate in Germany and, typically, there is no court monitored administration of decedent’s estate in Germany. Under German law a will might name an administrator and supply for subsequent estate administration, but many wills in Germany do not.
There are no living trusts under German law. Germany is a civil law jurisdiction which does not recognize trusts. There will be no trustee taking title to decedent’s possessions in Germany.
If you are an heir under German law depends on 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, most of the times, you will just be an heir if decedent named you explicitly, or implicitly. If you are not a beneficiary under the will, German law provides that you may still be entitled to a forced share of the inheritance, even if decedent intended to exclude you.
How do you discover that you may have made an inheritance in Germany? Anybody who remains in belongings or control of a will is needed to send it to the Court where decedent was domiciled. The Court will alert you if you are an heir under the will, or an heir at law. Even if there is no will successors often have to obtain letters of inheritance which are necessary to move title to acquired property in Germany, and typically required to settle savings account and claims in Germany. Once the Court gets an application it will notify the heirs at law. If the identity of the beneficiaries is not clear the Court may use detectives to find and call possible heirs.
Once you have knowledge that you have become an heir 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, take advantage of an extended period. If you reside in the US you have 6 months to disclaim an inheritance in Germany. Please note that certain acts might imply acceptance of an inheritance under German law. If you accept an inheritance in Germany you may be personally accountable for decedent’s debts with your own assets.
Most likely, you will deal with inheritance tax liability in Germany. Germany, unlike the United States, does not tax the estate. Each beneficiary and each recipient is taxed separately. Tax rates and exemptions differ. They depend upon the degree of kinship and the quantity acquired. You will have to file an inheritance tax return in Germany.