10 FAQ on Inheritance Law in Germany

I have noticed that I receive many e-mails with the same questions, so I have started to post the most frequent questions – and of course the answers to them – for everyone to read for free. As this section might already answer many of your questions, I invite you to browse these FAQ before you contact me (or any other lawyer) about your case.

Before asking a new question, please read through the comments which may already answer your questions. And do you see the “Make a Donation” button on the top right of your screen? If you find these FAQ useful or if you ask a new question, it would be very nice if you make use of it (after all, if you are on this page, you are about to receive a huge inheritance). Thank you!

1. Which law applies in international cases?

Germany applies the law of the citizenship of the deceased (Art. 25 I EGBGB), does however allow you to choose German law for real estate within Germany (Art. 25 II EGBGB).

2. Who inherits under German law if I have no will?

That depends on your family situation. If you have one surviving spouse and two children for example, the spouse will receive 50 % and the children will receive 25 % each. If you are single without children, your parents will inherit 50 % each. The more complicated your family situation, the more complicated the distribution.

3. I don’t like these quotas. Can I determine who gets the house, the car, my books and the dog?

Yes, you can. You will need to write a will for this purpose.

4. And how do I write a will?

The two main forms are the notarized will (which requires a notary public of course) and the privately written will. They have equal validity.
The privately written testament has to be written by hand (no typing), signed and dated (§ 2247 BGB).

5. Can I change my will later?

Of course. You do this either by destroying it (if there is only one copy) or by writing a new one in which you include the explicit remark that this new will supersedes the old one. If you have filed your will with a notary public, you need to ask him to hand you the original testament back.

6. Can I disinherit my children / can my parents disinherit me?

German law has a system of “forced heirship” (§ 2303 BGB) which means that children, parents and the spouse are entitled to a certain minimum of the estate even if they are disinherited. So yes, you can express your wish to disinherit someone in your will, but he/she will still receive a legal minimum. Only in cases of gross misconduct on the part of the potential heir towards the deceased is it possible to exclude them completely (§ 2333 BGB).

7. If I have been disinherited, can I contest the will?

Yes, you can (§ 2078 BGB).

8. What if I don’t want to inherit?

If you don’t want to inherit (for example if the estate includes more debts than assets), you can refuse to accept the inheritance. However, you need to explicitly declare that you reject the inheritance within 6 weeks of your knowledge of the inheritance (§ 1944 I, II BGB). If you live outside of Germany, this limitation period is 6 months (§ 1944 III BGB).

9. Does Germany tax inheritance?

You bet. The tax rate depends on the amount inherited and on how closely related you were to the deceased. As a child, for example, 400.000 EUR are tax free. Above this threshold, the tax rate progresses from 7 % to 30 %. The maximum tax rate (for non-related heirs) is 50 %.

10. Who inherits if there are no relatives at all and no will has been made?

Guess who? Exactly: the state in which the deceased had his last residence will inherit everything (§ 1936 BGB).

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
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203 Responses to 10 FAQ on Inheritance Law in Germany

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  7. Rachel M says:

    Hello Mr. Moser

    Does a life insurance policy count as an inheritance? If so, when a child inherits does their husband automatically get half of that or must that be specified in the will?

    Thank you

    Rachel

    • No, a life insurance is usually not part of the inheritance or the estate. But even for inheritance, I don’t see why the deceased child’s husband would receive any share in it. The husband is not related to the parents of his spouse and is therefore not entitled to inherit (unless specified in the will of course).

    • Elizabeth Moser says:

      Hello Mr. Moser

      My German half brother just died. We have the same mother. Our mother put me up for adoption and I was adopted by a family in America in 1965. I located him and my half sister in Germany. I have citizenship in both America and Germany. If I am not listed in the Testement, do I have rights to inherat as a half sibling? What do I have right to inherate and what is the percentage? Do I have rights to his personal effects?

      Thank you

      Elizabeth

      • As a (half-)sister, you would only be entitled to inherit if your (half-)brother had no child(ren).
        As a sibling you do not benefit from forced heirship, so if you were not mentioned in the testament, there is nothing that you can do about.

      • Elizabeth Moser says:

        So the §1755 does not apply to extinguishing my rights. My brother was not married and has no children. My half sister and I are the soul survivors.

      • § 1755 I BGB does apply in your case, but I wanted to answer the question in a more general way, so that others can benefit from it as well.

        Your (half-)brother was free to dispose of his assets any way he wanted in his testament.

  8. Peter Traks says:

    Mr Moser: I entered this question a few minutes ago under the wrong heading (divorce). Here it is again: I’m a German citizen living in Germany with a younger American wife. She has fears that my children ( from another spouse, who were born and live in America) might demand part of my assets when I die, which would effectively kick her out of our house. Would adding her name to the house and/or writing a will that excludes them suffice?

    • Hello Peter,
      to fully exclude your children, you would have to have good reasons. Because of the strong forced heirship in German law, it is terribly difficult to disinherit children completely.
      However, by excluding your children from your will, you limit them at least to half of what they would usually inherit.
      And yes, if you transfer part of your property (e.g. 50%) to your wife, then that part won’t be subject to inheritance in case of your death. (Of course you would then regret doing so if it ever came to a separation or a divorce, so that’s a very tricky question to answer in a general way).

      • Stuart says:

        Dear Andreas (if I may),

        Please could you advise whether under German Inheritance Law, a Stepchild is classified as a first class heir and therefore protected from disinheritance under German forced inheritance law?

        Thank you in keen anticipation of your help.

        Kindest regards

        Stuart

      • Hello Stuart,

        a stepchild has no inheritance rights at all because it has no legal ties to the stepfather or stepmother. It merely happens to live in the same house, but like its biological parent, it will probably be gone once the relationship breaks up.

        This all changes if the stepchild will get adopted. Then it will be treated like any biological child would be.

      • Stuart says:

        Hi Andreas,

        Thank you very much indeed for your rapid reply.

        The specific question I have is whether or not my aunt, whose biological father died some year ago, but was still married to my aunt’s stepmother, who never remarried, would be protected from disinheritance by her stepmother under German forced inheritance law?

        Or does it come down to whether or not my aunt was formally adopted by her stepmother?

        Thank you once again.

        Stuart

      • Adoption would indeed change everything, so I would need to know if it had occurred or not.
        But I would also need to see your aunt’s father’s last will because he might have appointed his new wife as primary heiress but your aunt as secondary heiress. In this case, the last will could overrule statutory law.

  9. Caroline Murphy says:

    Hi Andreas,my grandfather migrated to New Zealand from Germany, he married my grandmother and had my father. Both my fathers parents passed when he was young, he then was adopted out.
    I am 29 and have my grandfathers birth and death certificates , my fathers birth certificate and adoption papers and also mine. Would I be eligible to apply for a german passport. Currently a citizen to New Zealand as that is where I was born. I am also looking into changing my surname to my grandfathers german name.

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  11. Milan Filipovic says:

    Our aunt passed away six months ago and to the best of our knowledge she left no property behind her in Germany. She was a Serbian citizen who had residence in Germany but in fact spend the last two years of her life in Serbia where we took care of her as she was dying of cancer. We received a letter from her bank stating she had an overdraft of 1000 euros on her bank account and that we should pay it. When she passed away we promptly notified the German embassy in Serbia and as to their instructions her pension and health insurance carriers in Germany. Even though there was no specification in the letter as to how and when this overdraft happened the amount sums up to six month of her rent in Germany where she had a long term rental of a room. When she died we had our aunts friend in Germany notify her landlord as well as the bank and we also believed when the pension stopped the bank would stop paying out the long term rental. Germany applies the law of citizenship of the deceased. By Serbian law there is no deadline after which it is assumed that we accepted the inheritance with debts and also by the same law we should not be liable for the debt that is greater that the assets unless we expressly accept it in a court of law. We are not legal or testatory heirs of our aunts. My mother had a contract with her aunt that stated that my mother would take care of her aunt in sickness and in health and also take care of her burial her when she passed away and in return she would get her aunts apartment in Serbia. These contracts are permissible by Serbian law and the real estate in them is exempted from deceased’s estate.
    Are we liable for the debt?

    • Rob says:

      My German father,who lived in Germany, has recently died in Germany. I live in the UK. My father was divorced from my mother & he remarried but had no other children.
      I want to obtain a copy of his will (I know there is one) but without asking his wife.
      How can I obtain a copy of his will from London, UK?
      Many thanks and very much appreciate any help!

  12. Lisa Marschall says:

    Mr Moser
    does a nephew or niece have any entitlement to an inheritance? The deceased lived with his girlfriend for 25 years but did not marry for financial reasons. His will gives her everything but a small sum to the nephews. she is partial owner of the house and has power of attorney over all of his assets. can the nephews fight her for control? and would they have a chance of winning?

    Lisa Marschall

    • Nephews and nieces are usually entitled to inherit, but in this case they were (partially) excluded by the will. Nephews and nieces are not protected by the forced-heirship clause (see no. 6 of the FAQ), so they cannot contest the will for that reason.

  13. Peter Holmes says:

    My wife’s father, a German citizen living in Germany, left a condition in his will to his two daughters that nothing he left would ever pass to their husbands or to his grandchildren’s spouses. Do they have to continue to abide by this condition?

    • It is possible to set up such a testament under German law if your wife’s father used “Vorerbschaft” and “Nacherbschaft”, that is if he specifically appointed somebody who would inherit after his daughters’ death.
      Of course there are some ways around this, especially if your wife doesn’t want to wait until her death with the disposition of her property.
      I would need to read the will to give you a definitive answer. You can mail it to me at moser@moser-law.com.

  14. Simon shrigley says:

    Hi andreas,

    My wife comes from Germany. Her father died in debt. We live in Guernsey Channel Islands UK with 2 children . My wife has formally rejected his inheritance (so not to have the debt ). I need to reject the inheritance to ensure myself and the children are not liablr but due to cost can’t travel to Germany. I believe a UK consulate can witness my signature to document my rejection of the will however what paperwork do i need to sign to ensure it is all done correctly?

    • You yourself do not need to reject the inheritance because you are not related to your wife’s father and thus not entitled to inherit (unless he specifically awarded something to you in his will).

      But, depending, on whether your wife has any siblings who assumed the inheritance, your children might be next in line. You and your wife may then reject the inheritance on their behalf. You can do this at a notary or at the German Consulate. There is no special form that you need to sign, but your declaration needs to specify the deceased, the inheritance, your two children and that you and your wife are acting on their behalf.

      Remember that the deadline is 6 months (§ 1944 III BGB) and in the case of your children, these 6 months began when your wife rejected the inheritance (again depending on whether there were other siblings and depending on what they did).

      Greetings to Guernsey where I once spent a beautiful hiking holiday!

      • Danny Heinisch says:

        Hi Andreas, My Uncle (in Germany) passed away and all his relatives in that country rejected his inheritance do to outstanding real estate debt, i live in Canada as well as my parents whom now are asked to receive this inheritance(which they will have to decline at the German consulate in Toronto ) will it keep going down the line to children until they get a response?If the letters come in the mail and i don’t open them or respond(they are NOT registered letters) do they have any legal recourse?DAN

      • As I have pointed out on previous answers, not opening letters is (a) childish and (b) stupid, because then you won’t even know what’s in it. And obviously the sender won’t really be impressed by you not opening it.

    • Simon shrigley says:

      For everyones information the documents needed to decline the testament are online at the German embassy london website.

  15. Russell says:

    My wife’s father was a German citizen and had passed away and we are in the US. We are wanting to know if there is a form that we can get to decline the heirloom? Also we are being told that we need to have a lawyer to fill out some papers to include with our declination paper. Is this true?

    • You do not need to use any specific form and you need no lawyer, but the declaration needs to be notarized, so you either need to go to the estate court (in Germany) or to one of the German consulates.

      Your wife has 6 months to do this. You personally don’t need to do anything (unless you are mentioned in the testament) because you are not legally related to your wife’s father.
      However, if you have children and you also wish to decline the inheritance on their behalf, then you both need to sign this declaration if you have shared custody (which you usually do if you are married).

  16. Juss VA says:

    Hello Andreas,
    My aunty was a German citizen having lived in West Germany for 15 years as a German nurse later retiring down to India. My aunty was the younger sister of my Mother she later lived with us in India after returning from West Germany and always wished to help us to take to Germany which she could not. She expired on dec 2005 in India and i received a letter from German embassy relating to her social security number and pension details which is still active.
    Now she is no more and i wish to immigrate to Germany being the real nephew of my aunty who was a German citizen can i apply for Germany residency or citizenship or immigrate to Germany please throw light on this. how strong would be my case.

    Regards
    Juss va

    • The only thing that could help your chances of immigrating to Germany was if your aunt taught you to speak German because then you might have it easier to get into university in Germany or find a job there. Apart from that, this background is really irrelevant for immigrating to Germany.

  17. Andrea says:

    Hello Mr. Moser,

    My grandmother passed away about 2 years ago. She was not married and had only one child, my father. My father passed 10 years ago leaving my widowed mother and 4 children, including myself. My grandmother was a German citizen who resided in India for many years and passed there. Recently, I have been asked by a relative of mine if I have received any notification from anyone regarding German inheritance from my grandmother. My relative keeps telling me that I should be hearing something soon, but I have not and I’m not even sure who I should hear from. Being that this involves Germany and I’m in the US, I’m not really sure where to begin with this or if being that she died 2 years ago, too much time has passed to even look into it further. Please advise or if you can give me a site that relates and I can do further research, that would be much appreciated as well. Thank you!

    Andrea

  18. Kay Rose says:

    Hello! Our deceased German grandparents have land in Germany that a company is wishing to purchase. We have one first cousin still living in Germany, and he has contacted us about this as our deceased mother inherited the land along with her brother and sister (our cousin’s mother). We have been receiving (lease?) payments over the years, but it is now being sold. We are all wondering if our deceased brother and sister’s adult children are entitled to proceeds from this sale. The three of us are the only surviving grandchildren, all in our 60s. Thanks for any advice!

    • Who owns the property? The land register should show that, and then we can take it from there.

      • Kay Rose says:

        The German cousin’s parents (who are deceased) and my mother (also deceased).

      • Dead people can’t own property. How long ago did they pass away? I would be surprised if the land register hasn’t been amended to show the heirs as owners.

        It sounds like I would need to take a look at all the paperwork (land register, last wills, contracts and so on) to be able to answer your question.

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  20. Roula Bandak says:

    Dear Sir,
    My uncle (mother’s brother) passed away in 1991.He wrote a joint will with his wife.
    The will gave my mother a part of the inheritance when they they both died.The will is not attested from Notary Public, it has only my uncle and his wife’s signature, will it be legally recognized?
    Who can the will be presented to to claim the inheritance?
    According to German law, will my uncle’s inheritance automatically go to his wife as they have no children? if so then everything will be in the uncle’s wife name , so if she dies, will the ‘Will’ made by her and my uncle still be effective?
    How can we prove that part of her inheritance was my uncle’s?

    • A handwritten will is absolutely sufficient (see no. 4 of the above FAQ).
      You would present it to the Local Court (“Amtsgericht”) of the city/county where the deceased last lived.
      Subject to the exact wording of the will, § 2271 II BGB bars your uncle’s wife from changing the will after his death (with lots of exceptions of course, as always in law).

  21. John Gille says:

    I am an American born German. I have German citizenship. I speak a little bit of German. I take colleges at Hunter College in NYC Sometimes I meet “real’ Germans who live here. I met a German once. They usually do not talk to me in German at and they hardly speak to me in English. I saw this guy that got assaulted. I told him that the USA is indifferent to German Nationals and you should leave. He does not listen. Sometimes they die or go to jail here. I am not a “real” one but sometimes some of us have issues here too. I know that Germany seems to let everyone and there brother live in Germany and they seem to ignore us. I think they should address this issue here in the US of A. I know the state of Florida is really bad too. I think it could be close to how we have to live in Namibia, Chile or Brazil.

  22. Gerhard Jene says:

    Dear Sir
    I have no idea as to when my grandfather died on my father’s side. His wife died approx. 20 years. I have no idea if they owned any property or rented. My father or his sisters never told me much on this subject since he and my mother divorced while I was still a child. My father died in 2005, 1 sister died in 2010 and the other sister the following year. From what I understand from a letter that my deceased aunt had sent me some yrs ago, there is a cousin (who had a child that is now deceased) still living in Ennigerloh. I do not know if this cousin had any other children or not and her husband is also deceased. How would I go about finding out what happened to her since I barely speak German and I do have her last known address. I am aware that she did receive a Christmas card I had sent to her about a year or so before my aunt had died. She is apparently related by marriage to a son of my grandfather’s sister. I did inherit German citizenship at the time I was born. The point is, as a cousin, if I were to inherit anything, where would I fall in the different category regarding inheritance. I am not really interested in claiming anything, but am curious. As far as my grandparents go, from my father’s side, I do not know if they retained their German citizenship or not, since my grandmother died in Canada. I have no idea where or when my grandfather died.

    Gerhard

    • There are a bit too many unknowns for me to analyze your legal situation. You would need to start contacting the relatives whom you know and ask them to fill in the many blanks.

  23. Gerhard Jene says:

    Thanks for your quick reply. It was worth asking. I tried to fill you in as best I could based on what I knew already. I was checking into rules and regulations on German inheritance to see what was involved and what my chances would have been. My situation would be too involved for to little or nothing in return. Besides, it was a long shot anyways.

    • Never research the rules before you know the facts. You will find thousands of rules, but you/I have no idea which ones will apply because we don’t know the facts.

      It’s like calling a doctor, telling her “I have no idea what I have, but maybe my left leg is bleeding, although it might be that I am sneezing. Last night, or maybe a year ago, I had to throw up. I may or may not be allergic to X, and I may or may not have eaten X. It’s possible that I do have a history of MS, but I can’t remember. Please help me!”

  24. Ursula Schroeder says:

    In July of 2012, my german Aunt passed away. She had no will and my father was dealing with german probate. At the time both my father and his younger brother were still alive and were to inherit 50% of her remaining estate with no debts. Before the inheritance was finalized my father passed away in March of 2014 in Canada. My step mother was informed that she now would be the beneficiary of my Aunt’s estate, my father did have a will and gave everything to my stepmother. No problem there. Now my stepmother has received a new letter from the german probate stating that he was notified in October of 2014 that my dad’s younger brother passed away in February of 2014. He died with no will and more debt that his 50% of my Aunts estate. Are these not considered two separate inheritances and is my stepmother responsible for any of my uncle’s debt over and above his estate? She is a Canadian citizen. Thank you for your help.
    Ursula Schroeder

    • I would need to know the citizenship and place of residence of all persons involved and take a look at the wills and the letters you received.
      I charge 400 EUR for such a consultation.

  25. Max says:

    Hi Mr. Moser,

    How much can a lawyer & executor charge for taking care on an inheritance case that will take 7-8 years. My father’s last will is that I get to manage all his properties when I turned 30 years old. So for now, only the lawyer & one executor are looking after what my father has left.

  26. Else says:

    My grandmother and step-grandfather signed a Joint Will in Germany listing the sole heirs as their 3 grandchildren, and excluding our mother. After my grandmother died, through German law, my mother was allowed to receive her “forced inheritance.” 2o years later our step-grandfather died in Germany and the original Will was held valid, listing the heirs again as the 3 grandchildren. One of the grandchildren died young, was never married, and had no children. Does his 1/3 share pass to the remaining 2 listed grandchildren, or could our mother step in and claim his share through another “forced inheritance” because he was a minor at the time of his death?

  27. Michelle fairweather says:

    Hello, I was just notified that I am a quarter share heiress of my grandmother who died in 1975. My father died in 1974. He was 1 of 4 children. They have requested my marriage certificate and are looking to issue a certificate of inheritance. I think it includes some property that may now be in dispute as some parties wish to sell and one does not. I am assuming I will need to help make a decision.
    Do all heirs have to agree on sale? Also do i have some extra claim on property because i Was not notified for 40 years and I was in contact with some heirs until 1991 and then again for last 3 years without informing me as i am in Australia and have never lived in Germany? thanks

  28. Kelly Cafftenade says:

    Hi Andreas,
    I live outside Germany, my aunt lived in Germany and just before her death married her second husband, as she knew she would die soon and that would avoid taxes. They both told me that I would inherit whatever was left when the survivor finally died. When she died, I received a copy of the Testament from the Amstgericht. There is a sentence I don’t quite understand, “Jeder vons uns beruft, sowohl fur den Fall, dass er der Laengstlebende von uns ist, als auch fuer den Fall, dass wir gleichzeiting oder kurz hintereinander aus dem gleichen Anlass versterben, zu seinen Erben…Mrs XXXX There is also something about changing the will, “Das recht zum Widerruf erlischt mit dem Tode des anderen Ehegatten. Das testament kann also danach nicht mehr geandert werden” I know that they did not change the will before my aunt died, so does this mean my uncle could not change the will?
    Her husband, (my uncle therefore by marriage), just died, it seems he left some typed ramblings of a will, not notarized, but I have no idea what happens now. I do not know if he made a new official will, and don’t know if he could exclude me. My aunt said that it was sure that I would be the heir. (She had a house which he later sold, and I was to get half of the profit). I called the Notar who prepared the will for both aunt and uncle, they will not give me any information over the phone. They said, call the Amtsgericht. I have done that and sent an email, but no one will tell me what happens now. Will they contact me, does that first official will have any value? Can I contest the will? My uncle had no children, just a niece, who never had much contact with him.
    I really have no idea what to do next.

  29. Monica says:

    Hi,

    My grandparents of my father had a home in Germany. My father passed away when i was young. His parents, my grandparents are now deceased. The sister of my father is deceased and her husband lives in the home of my grandparents. He says it is his? I live in Canada. How could i find out if this is true?

  30. cathy says:

    Hi Andreas,
    My husband and I moved to Germany from Ireland in December 14 with two children as his 85 year old father called him regularly asking him to come home son and take over your house!
    15 months later we are living in the same house as his now 87 year old father and his wife of 9 years.
    My husband signed a form when his mother died stating he would not ask for his inheritance while his father was living. He was told his mother and father both had him as the sole inheritor.
    His father has remarried a woman who has very openly stated the marriage was purely for monetary gain and they have a contract whereby this woman has the right to live here in part of the house or we have to pay 80.000 to buy her out.
    Is there a possibility my husband will lose all of his inheritance_

  31. Karl says:

    Allo Mr Moser,
    My dad died in August with no will. I appointed his wife as power of attorney for myself and my English sister and the erbschein declares 50% to his Frau, 25% to me and 25% to my sister. However, the Frau has said that she contributed more than the 50% allocated under the erbschein to an Investment in my fathers sole name. She can’t prove this and the bank agrees it should be split as per the erbschein. Would she stand any chance of getting this overruled? Also, I found out she withdrew over 5,000 euros without our permission before we cancelled her power of attorney and it turned out after we contacted the bank directly that she lied to us regarding the amount of investment held in the banks dear my dads name. Would this constitute inheritance fraud?

    Appreciate your help and if your ever buy property in the UK I will return the favour! Karl

  32. jenny says:

    Hi, I am English and I married a german man in italy In 2006. We later split up and he wouldn’t divorce me. I went on to meet someone else and have children and contuined to live in our joint house that my husband and I bought together, but he stopped paying for the joint house in 2009.
    He died in april this year of a heart attack so didn’t have a will.
    I have no proof but have been told he has tax debts of 200,000 euro tax debt?
    He was a doctor and had a work pension a private pension scheme and a life insurance policy. But I do think this was in the name of his only daughter.
    I do not have any documentation on any of these.
    what will happen to his share of the house? Will his debts die with him?
    I am finding it hard for anyone to help me.
    thank you in advance

    • The debts remain, but to fully answer your question, I would need to know where the house was, which country he died in and take a look at the loan agreement and other paperwork.
      I charge 200 € for such a consultation.

  33. John Z. says:

    Dear Andreas: My fiancee is an American citizen who has lived in the U.S. since 1990-ish. Her father is a German citizen currently in a nursing-type facility in Germany. He had fell ill last October and can no longer live alone. My fiancee lived in Germany until the age of 9 or 10. She was not born there. Her parents divorced and she then moved to the United States. Her father was not involved in her upbringing nor did he ever financially support her in any fashion. She became a U.S. citizen and turned in her German passport to the German consulate ten years ago. She is therefore no longer a German citizen. She went to visit her father for a week after he fell ill. She was given the info of his newly appointed legal guardian who has since contacted her to keep her up to date on her father’s condition. Just a few days ago, my fiancee received a letter in the mail entitled “Gewaehrung von Sozialhilfe fuer Ihren Vatern…” The letter seems to imply that pursuant to Section 94 Abs. 4 Satz 1 SGB XII, she is responsible for the financial costs of the nursing home facility. The letter seems to imply that they have a right to inquire about her financial income in America. My fiancee also has a step-brother and step-sister who live in Germany but she doesn’t know their whereabouts. In either case, do you have any knowledge regarding whether an American citizen with a German parent can be made to pay health care costs for the German parent in Germany in this type of situation? Her father is still alive and in this nursing facility. Thanks for your help and advice.

    • John Z. says:

      clarification: her siblings are HALF-brother and sister (same father)

    • I will keep my answer brief because it has really nothing to do with inheritance law. I shall set up a separate set of FAQ on the subject of financial support for parents one day.
      German law does indeed provide for children supporting their parents once the parents are in financial need (usually if they are in a care home and can’t pay anymore).
      There are a few defences against this however, such as that the father in the present case did not his daughter in any way.
      Another point to consider is whether the US would recognize and enforce a judgement against your fiancee (unless she still has assets in Germany).
      Lastly, if your fiancee doesn’t have a huge income or a ton of assets, she doesn’t need to worry anyway and might as well provide the requested information.
      If you want, she can e-mail me the letter and we can set up a consultation over Skype and speak about everything in detail. Of course I can also draft the reply. I would charge 250 € for this.

      • John Z. says:

        Thank you Andreas. That’s very helpful. Are you still in good standing with the legal bar in Germany? If so, I think my fiancee would like to set up a consultation via Skype. Thanks again!

      • I haven’t been a member of the bar since 2009, when I left Germany.

  34. Kirsten says:

    Hi Andreas,

    I am an australian citizen by naturalisation (my parent emigrated to Australia in 1963). As of 1981 I am back in Germany, since 1992 married to a german. My father is deceased and my mother has disinherited me because she gave us money in the last 10 years. Now she has gone into a home and is in the paliative department, so that her lifespan is limited after years of cancer.
    She can still pay for all her needs and for the home. What happens when she passes away and has debts at the home, can we be forced to pay back what she gifted us?

    Thanks – would you have preferred this in german?

    Kirsten

  35. Dieter says:

    Hello, I am a German citizen. My wife and I married in 1994 in Frankfurt Germany.
    In 1994 my mother passed away. As part of my inheritance, she left me 3 parcels of land in Frankfurt and I received a small amount of money from her life insurance policy. At the time, I was told that my wife would not be entitled to make a claim against any portion of my inheritance as my mother stipulated that the property would be exempt under family laws rules and the life insurance portion passed to me was also exempt.
    In 2009 my wife left me for another man. We have not divorced since that time and she now advises that she will make a claim against the lands and inheritance funds that I received from my mother. Can she do this? Could you please provide me with a link that I may go to, to refer to my lawyer. I now reside in Canada and do not know who to turn to.

    Thank you. Dieter 😃

    • Inherited property – but not its increase in value – is protected under German law (§ 1374 II BGB), but the tricky question is under which law you will get divorced. If you live in Canada, I am not sure if the Canadian court would apply German law.

  36. Dieter says:

    Sorry, my wife and I married in 1991 and my mother passed away in 1994.
    Any information you can provide is so appreciated.

    Dieter

  37. Ilse pappas says:

    I have US and German citizenship. May I handwrite a will that leaves all my German property to my daughter? We would leavemy son equal value inheritance in the US. They are both in agreement and this would be the simplest thing forme to do since my daughter has connections to Germany but my som foes not. Thanks fot any input, German notaries are so expensive.

  38. Marlis Arkcoll says:

    I have a German passport and currently live in South Africa. My uncle, who is German and lives in Germany is single with no children. He has a brother in Brazil, a sister and a niece from a deceased sister in Germany.

    I have a brother in Peru and a deceased brother whose children live in Brazil.

    Who will inherit from my uncle?

    Marlis

  39. Roy Jones says:

    Mr. Moser, my mother went back to Germany after my father died. She remarried. My step-father has no children. My mother died May of 2014. She left her assets to him. My step-father died July 5th of this year. My mother’s sister had my stepfather write me out of his will and leave everything to her. Am I not entitled to my mother’s half of the estate?

    • 1) It depends on your mother’s will.
      2) But even if your mother excluded you from her will, you as her son would be entitled to half of your statutory share under the principle of forced heirship.

  40. Lynn says:

    HI Andreas

    My mother married a German and moved to Germany. They bought a house togheter and where married over 20 years before she passed. When she passed away I got the will from the German Goverment asking me if I wish to countest it since in the will it said that I could not claim my part of the house until her husband died. He was a very shaddy man but I didn’t want him to have to sell the house for me to get my share and decided to wait until he did to get my inheritance. 3 Years later I find out that he is remarried and not living in that house anymore. So I’m wondering what happens to my share of that house. Can he sell it without my conscent? if so i’m I entitled to half of the selling price ? what are my options?

    Thanks

    • I would need to look at the exact wording of the testament and possibly also the ownership situation in the land registry, as well as your correspondence from back then.

      I charge 200 EUR for such a consultation.

  41. Cassandra says:

    Hi Sir Andreas,
    Good day.my husband is a German citizen,he died last April 7 of 2013,and he left a holographic will that there is 3 benefiaciary sister,son.and me the wife written in will.i have only a photo copy of the will.i don’t have any idea what I’m going to do till now.can I get a public lawyer to help me?and I’m worry because it’s 2 years already since my husband died.but the son they don’t inform me of what’s going on about the will.still I can get my share written in the will?can I claim the life insurance of my husband?my husband has patent what I’m going do?I live outside Germany
    But this August I’ll be in Germany soon.

    Thank you so much
    Eve

  42. Gerhard Jene says:

    Dear Sir

    I have an older cousin living in Ennigerloh. I am not sure if his parents are related to my grandfather or grandmother (parents of my father). I sent a card at Christmas 2014 using the exact address I was given by another relative. The card was returned unopened. That means either the person is deceased or moved to a nursing home. I can prove my relationship to my grandparents since I have the appropriate documentation. My cousin had one child that I was made aware of. Unfortunately, this child predeceased his parents. Where can I obtain information to indicate if my cousin is in a nursing home or deceased? If deceased, How can I find out about the will or estate? I do have dual citizenship Germany.

    • The first thing would be to contact the public registrar (“Einwohnermeldeamt”) of the municipality where your cousin last lived.
      If they were to inform you that he deceased, then you can contact the local estate court (“Nachlassgericht”).

    • AAEAR says:

      I just wanna ask if i can get a inherit from a german.? Every year my german stay with me for 7months within 5yrs..we get married in our house is like house wedding but the priest didn’t registered cause of legal capacity from him (german) even though we stay together as a husband and wife for 5yrs ( 7months every yr).. he died last April 27,2015 here in the Philippines with me..what is my rights to get a part what hr left or inherit should i get..?

  43. Gerhard Jene says:

    Thanks.

    • Gerhard Jene says:

      Dear Sir
      I tried to telephone and talk with someone at the Einwohnermeldeamt and they failed to understand wha.t I was after. I also sent a message through their facebook site near the end of August and failed to elicit a response. What is the best format for me to use to request the appropriate information in a letter? Like I have said before, I am uncertain which grandparent the relationship is through. Danke

      • Yes, a letter is best.
        I can write it for you in German, but I charge 200 EUR for an initial consultation.

      • Gerhard Jene says:

        Dear Sir

        I found out that the relatives I have in Ennigerloh are now deceased. Their respective dates of death are unknown on my part. I am just waiting for someone to return to work by July 11, 2016 and I may be able to obtain death certificates for both. That way I can determine with a little more accuracy which one was related to one of my grandparents. I may require assistance on your part, once I can get those documents, in order to get a copy of the will or information as to what happened to their estate and as to who may have inherited it. As for any living relatives I have from my fathers’ side, 1 cousin claims he does not know and the other 2 have made no attempts at communication since our respective parents have passed on and I have tried to locate them in order to communicate with them. So, is the 200 Euro for the letter still relevant? Thanks.

  44. Altan Halil says:

    Hi Andreas
    Very informative site – I am British in a Civil partnership and have no children and my parents are deceased. I have one elderly brother. I live in Germany with my partner. With the changes in EU succession law Brussels IV, I understand that I now need to stipulate if I wish the succession laws of the country of my citizenship to apply in my Will. I have done this in with UK Will as all my assets are in the UK. I have no German Will. My question is, do I need to make a German Will or is there a more simpler solution like a statement of some kind or will my UK Will be accepted. I wish to leave all my estate to my partner only.

    Thank you so much

    • Good and timely question! But because of the Brussels IV Regulation entering into effect this month, I will have to write a whole new article soon. Stay tuned!

      • Altan Halil says:

        Thanks for the response. Hope you can cover some of the issues I raised

  45. Sharon says:

    Dear Mr. Moser,
    How long after the passing of a person who wrote a will, and left his assets to one heir (not a relative) could the remaining relatives demand 50%?
    Also, regarding inheritance taxes, could a status of a Lebenspartner ( supported by different documents and signed by the deceased) could be matched with the one of a married wife?
    Thank you

    • 1) You have three years (§ 195 BGB), beginning from the end of the year in which you learnt of your relative’s death.
      2) “Lebenspartner” within the meaning of the Erbschaftssteuergesetz is only the registered same-sex partner.

  46. Christopher Spearman says:

    I just received word from a distant relative that my grandmother in Germany has passsed. How do i go about dealing with her estate and any inheritance? I am in USA and do not know how i go about obtaining any information on the death or her will.

  47. Georgina neumann says:

    Hello, I live in England. My German father died last November, his step mother inherited all his father’s (my grandfathers) money when he died, my grandmother (my fathers step mother) has recently died, I have been told her money will go to my cousins (my father’s brother’s children) and nothing to my brother and I, is this correct? Is there anything I can do? Thank you

    • How can your father’s stepmother be your grandmother?

      This sounds like a very convoluted situation. I would need to know who was married to whom when, who died when, who was born when, and so on. I would need to charge my consultation fee of 200 EUR to sort this out.

  48. Georgina neumann says:

    The lady who married my grandfather is my grandmother, she was my father’s stepmother, she inherited everything Several years ago and has recently died, I have been told all the money will go to my uncle’s children, I just wanted to know if I was entitled to anything, thanks

    • I think your father’s real mother would be your grandmother. You can’t get more grandmothers by your grandfather re-marrying.
      This distinction is important because there is no legal relationship between step-parents and step-(grand-)children.

  49. Elizabeth says:

    My husband’s mother received a call today (in Berlin) from an “inheritance investigator” claiming that my husband is the potential heir of 55,000 Euro from someone on his father’s side of the family. His father died when he was three and he didn’t know that side of the family. My mother-in-law gave the investigator my husband’s email. They emailed an extensive contract and indicated that they will receive a fee of roughly 30% if the inheritance goes through. It all seems like a scam to me, though their website seems legitimate. 1. Have you heard of these sort of companies in Germany and are they legit? 2. If this news is legitimate, couldn’t my husband do some investigative work to try to find out where the inheritance if coming from and claim it? 3. Also a year ago he received American citizenship and lost his German citizenship (that’s a longer story). Would him being an American citizen impact this?

    • 1) You are right to be suspicious. That sounds very much like a scam. Usually the estate court will notify relatives or other people who were mentioned in a will. Also, the court would not necessarily know the amount of money involved as the court only determines the quota by which the different relatives inherit.
      2) You are right again. With a bit of investigation into the family tree, it should be easy to find out who died recently and who is still alive.
      3) Your husband’s citizenship has no impact on him inheriting in Germany or from a German citizen. It might complicate the tax situation a little bit, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

  50. Susan says:

    I recently found out that my biological father is a German citizen. I always was suspicious, but I finally out through my mother’s admission…I am now 43 years old. My birth certificate lists my mother’s husband, a U.S. citizen, as my father. My mother is a German citizen and she was separated from her husband for about a year when I was conceived. I was born in the U.S. and am a U.S. citizen. I have made contact with my biological father. He is married and has one adult, yet handicapped, son. He has now offered me a “gift” of $30,000 U.S. in exchange for renouncing my heritage and my succession’s heritage to him. I do not know very much about the forced heirship of Germany, but understand that I am entitled to an inheritance from him. I do not know his financial situation, but I believe that he has money. I feel hurt and insulted by his offer. I received nothing from him my entire life and now he wants to buy me out. I had a difficult childhood filled with struggle. I was despised and mistreated by the man who I thought was my father. What legal recourse do I have? Neither of us have asked for a paternity test. Can I find out information about his assets? I know his address and I know that he owns a house. Thank you.

    • Everything depends on the establishment of legal paternity. Without legal paternity, biological paternity is irrelevant in inheritance law.
      Once paternity is established (for which no test is needed if he acknowledges paternity), you have the same rights to inheritance (including forced heirship as described in my FAQ above) as the other child(ren).
      You have no right to find out anything about your father’s assets because as long as he isn’t dead, there is no inheritance. After all, you might die first or he might give away or lose all of his assets. Therefore the decision on whether to accept the offer of the buy-out is always based on speculation.

      • Susan says:

        Thank you for the information. Are these “buy-outs” common in Germany? I mentioned to my biological father that I am learning about forced heirship being the law in Germany. He said yes that is the law, but that most children do not insist on it. Is that true?

      • I wouldn’t say that most children don’t insist on it. There is no statistical data on it. What does happen frequently is that children waive their right if the other parent is still alive (and the parents are married), so that in the father’s death all property goes to the mother and the children will ultimately inherit from the mother. I would however always advise against that because Mom can squander the assets in the meantime or get married again and complicate matters.
        The buy-outs are not uncommon, particularly if the parents want to transfer real estate or a family business to only one child. And, from the children’s perspective, a payment now is often more useful than an uncertain payment at an uncertain time.

  51. Carla says:

    Hello Andreas,

    By way of background my grandmother was one of five children – her parents died in 1975 and 1977 leaving behind a family farm house. Of the five children, only one son remained in the family home with his wife. Today that wife (my grandmother’s sister in law) lives in the house alone as her husband (my grandmother’s brother) has passed away.

    I am seeking to understand if my grandmother and her siblings (and their descendants) have any entitlement to the family home. I am assuming that the house is now in the brother’s (or his wife’s) name as it has been many years since my grandmother’s parents’ passed.

    Specifically, I am seeking to understand if my grandmother’s descendants have any entitlement to claim their share of the house (assuming that they were left out of the initial will in 1975/77 under the forced inheritance rules?

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind regards,
    Carla

    • That’s quite a complicated situation with so many relatives involved, so I would appreciate a donation (see the button on the top right) before I answer it.
      Thank you!

  52. Dean says:

    Andreas,
    Great information. Thank you for providing.
    My wife who is from Germany, came to America nearly 3 decades ago. She is a U.S. citizen having given up her German citizenship and passport all those years ago.

    Her mother passed away last week. There are no other children, Spouse, etc…
    My question is regarding German Inheritance law regarding debt’s etc… We know there is nothing of financial value, and her mother most likely has a lot of debt. But if my wife wants childhood photos, family documents etc… she has to take on ownership of all of the debt?

    I hate to be blunt, but since my wife is not a German citizen, can the debts truly be imposed on her?

    Thank you for your time.

    • 1) Unfortunately, she can only accept the estate as a total or decline it completely. She cannot pick certain items and decline the rest of the inheritance, particularly the debts.

      2) The possibility of debts does not depend on her citizenship, but on whether she has assets or an income that anyone could enforce against. If all the assets are in the US, the creditor would need to get a German judgment recognized and enforced in the US, which they may very well never do if it’s not worth it or too complicated for them.

      3) As a practical matter, if there is nobody else to inherit, our wife can simply go there, take what she wants and then decline the inheritance as a whole. With no other heir around, nobody will complain.

  53. Maria Shella Pulter says:

    My aunt, a Filipina, was legally married in 1991 to a German citizen whose marriage was both certified in the Philippines and in Germany. Her husband died in 1997 while she was in the Philippines. (She had lived in Germany and visited the Philippines every now and then) After his death, she has never remarried as well as bothered to go back to Germany to take care of his real estate properties, pension, and insurance claims until recently. She says her husband hates debts and owns farms and other properties in Berlin. They also have accounts in several banks including Sparkasse. My question is being the sole heir (specified in her passport) can she still claim all assets he left? Is there like a deadline on which date you need to claim your inheritance in Germany? She is now broke and can’t afford to pay for a plane ticket nor spend top dollar to pay for atty’s fees. She made mention of sharing a percentage of her inheritance to someone who can help. Pertinent documents are ready if you want to look into her case. Your answer is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

  54. janice says:

    Hello Andreas,
    My mother is a German born Canadian citizen (for over 55 years) She has inherited some land in Germany that she does not want…the 6 months have passed (really more like 18 months)and she has declined any further registered mail…She does not fully understand the paperwork involved as she is a senior…what kind of recourse can the German government have if she just ignores them?
    thanks
    Jan

    • If she doesn’t want it, someone else (e.g. you) will get the property.

      But, and this goes beyond your mother’s case, declining registered mail is not a clever thing. First, you won’t learn what it is inside the mail, and second, by declining you acknowledge that you could have received it and you will be treated as if you have been properly served.

      By being obstinate, your mother may make it much harder for the next heir to get title of the property.

  55. Carol says:

    Mr. Moser,
    8 years ago my father’s assets were distributed among his daughters, me being one of them. Apparently I have a half brother from my father who never received his share (we didn’t know he existed.) Later he died and the children of HIS mother’s sister say they are entitled to a share of my fathers assets from 8 years ago, and wish to settle by taking they’re share out of the new inheritance from my half brother…who has no children.
    Curious about your thoughts.
    Thank you.

  56. Betty says:

    Hello, my elderly (78 years old) mother in law is a widow and has three children. Two out of the three no longer wish to speak to her, one lives in Thailand and the other around 3-4 hours from here. My husband, who is the only one child speaking to her, looks after her and makes sure she has want she needs as she is no longer able to drive and lives alone and with her frail health it’s hard for her to use public transport. My mother in law wishes to leave everything she has after her death to my husband and not the other two children. Can my mother in law disinherit the two children that have been verbally abusing her so that they are not entitled to anything. I know that there is something about only if they have enflicted ‘gross misconduct’ on her. What is the definition of gross misconduct in this siutation?

  57. Alecs says:

    Hi, My Father who was a German national passed away I believed about 6-7 months ago in the Philippines where he has been living for many years. He is separated from my Filipina mother for many years too but not divorced. We have no specific address or where and how he really died as I can only imagine how impossible it is to find out where he live or died in a country like that where its over populated and he wont even be a statistic. We heard that he died in his home so I guess he would not been registered in a hospital! My mum still lives in the Philippines and me and my sister have been here in the UK for more than a decade. Now my questions is who or how do we find out if he left a will or who do we notify in Germany that he passed away as we suspect that the Filipina woman he’s been living for a few year with is still claiming for his pension. Would we get any of his pension? Thank you in advance for any help.

    • Particularly on the subject of inheritance law, where questioners expect a financial gain from my research, my time, my experience, my knowledge and my efforts, I don’t answer questions without receiving a donation. You find the “Make a Donation” button on the top right corner of this blog.

  58. I am a 81 year old legally separated Canadian citizen, born in Germany and inherited 1/2 of an apartment block with one of my brothers in Germany. The other brother Hans got his share at the time my parents passed away. I want to leave my half of the property to my brother Werner who is 78. I have three children who will share my valuable estate in Canada. Here they would get a huge sum in Canada. My brother can not afford to pay the 20% inheritance tax. I like my brother to be able to stay in the house, where he lives. He currently gets all the proceeds from the rentals.
    I need to make a will and need advise.

  59. Ilka Marsh says:

    Mr. Moser,
    I was born and raised in Germany but have been living in the US for more than 30 years. I am a US citizen and no longer hold German citizenship. My 93 year old mother still lives with my sister in Berlin. It is not clear to me how an inheritance from my mother will be treated under German law when the time comes – as a US citizen and non-resident of Germany, do I still qualify for the large inheritance tax exemption that a child usually gets?
    Thank you for any help you can provide.

    • Under German law, yes, you are still your mother’s child, regardless of your citizenship.
      However, I don’t know if the US will try to tax you as well.

      • Ilka Marsh says:

        Thank you for your quick response! I had been told previously that being a non-resident might disqualify me from receiving the benefit of the exemption. But that was many years ago. BTW, I am glad to have found your blog – it’s very amusing! :-)

      • Thank you! I am glad you find not only useful, but also entertaining things here. :)

  60. my parents both died, ,y father first then my mother. My mother was a german citizen even though she lived here and had social security benefits here. The three remaining sons had to pay for her funeral. someone told me that there may be both a social security death benefit and also a german social security death benefit because she died a citizen and had paid into the german social security system for years. I am trying to find out about it. any clues from a hobo genius?

  61. Diane Byrd says:

    Dear Andreas, I am an American Citizen and live in the USA, my German Aunt passed away in Dusseldorf in August 2015. The only way I found out was I received a copy of her will in which I was not included by the local German courts. Can I protest the will? But I am most worried about all of my familys photos and important documents in my Aunts house. What are my rights? Where do I start to get ahold of all these important photos and documents? Help! Thank you so much.

  62. Tina says:

    My great uncle passed away near cologne,he owned a beautiful house and apartments. his wife passed away years before him. my uncles wife niece rented the apt attached to my uncles house. the niece and her famikyb who are German citizen do not want to relinquish house and apartments and family heirlooms. My father was his nephew. I’m trying to claim assets and family heirlooms. No one contacted us about his death or property. what can we do?

  63. Pat Watson says:

    Dear Andreas, I am an American citizen in the US and was married to a German who passed away this year in June. We owned a house there together and there were no children. He did leave a will, leaving everything to me that I had verified at the various German legal offices. I would like to know what I have to do to collect his life insurance which I believe was part of a group policy that he had from work. I have been in contact with the insurance company but they keep putting me off, telling me the tax office in Berlin has not released the funds yet?? Isnt there a time limit in Germany for paying out life insurance benefits? It has now been 5 months. Our house was not paid off and I wonder if it is possible for the bank to claim the insurance benefits? I would also like to know about his retirement. Am I entitled to it? An if so, how much would it be?

  64. Denise Trimble says:

    My husbands aunt has just died in Germany. We also live in this country. She wrote a will leaving everything to my husband. This testament was made by a Notar and left at the Amtsgericht . We have now heard that she has hand written another testament. Which testament is valid.

      • Denise Trimble says:

        Dear Mr Moser,

        Regarding my previous question.

        The new will was written for her son. But he died before she did. So is his will void.
        Any help would be gratefully received

      • That’s very complicated. I would need to look at the wills and receive a complete timeline of events.

        I charge 200 EUR for a consultation by e-mail.

  65. Denise Trimble says:

    Thanks for your help

  66. Angela says:

    I recently came across the will of my German grandfather and my step-grandmother stating my mother (illegitimate at the time of her birth in 1921, her mother died during her birth and father claimed her 4 years later) should only receive the compulsory portion of the one of their sons who takes over their house. I know my mother never received any inheritance (she came to the US in the 60’s and she passed away in 1999) and recently found out that the only living relative is the wife of one of my mother’s half-brothers. She resides in the house my grandfather spoke of in the will. How would I go about finding out how the will was handled and if we would be entitled to what my mother should have received? The property is in Mannheim. Thank you.

    • The first step would be to go to the land register to see when the property as transferred to whom.
      You might also want to contact the estate court, but you may have problems in proving your right to see the file because you are not mentioned in the will.

      When did the original owners of the house die? If it was more than 30 years ago, all this is subject to the statute of limitations.

  67. tnt says:

    Wouldn’t it be an important part of the article, talking about spouses, to mention that spouses, if the ‘Zugewinngemeinschaft’ (a very common option) was chosen, gets an additional 1/4th in all constellations?

    • Absolutely true if German law applies to the matrimonial property regime (§ 1371 I BGB).
      But I didn’t want to include this because most people who use my blog or my services are bi-national couples (after all, a German-German couple would probably look for information in German language) where the matrimonial property regime may well be governed by the law of another jurisdiction. To explain this would have gone beyond the scope of the FAQ, particularly because some of these couples’ matrimonial property regime is governed by EU law and others is not.

  68. Alan Smith says:

    Dear Mr Moser. Very Interesting article. Did you ever follow up on the question from Altan Halil dated 2015-08-06. I have a similar type of problem

  69. Monica Lepine says:

    My friend, a German lady that lived in Canada for 50 some years has deceased. She had a will leaving me as her sole heir. She has 1 son in Germany and 1 son in Ontario, Canada. Both son’s had nothing to do with their mother when she was alive. Now that she has deceased they are using this forced shared against me claiming 1/2 of my inheritance. Can you tell me if a Canadian will made by a German lady is Valid? OR do they have grounds to claim their inheritance over the Canadian Will? Who could I speak to about this matter.

  70. nancy says:

    How long will they hold a person’s estate after passing before they turn it over to the state? And who would I contact in Germany to inquire about the estate?

  71. A says:

    Hi Mr Moser,
    I need some assistance. I have tried to call direclty to german family offices but there are not many that speak English. I have a general question regarding inheritance law. My mother (a Swedish Citizen) married an american citenzen in the US I Believe. They then moved to Germany where they bought a house an where they lived until her death last week (around 8 years in Germany). I have not met her new husband more than 2 -3 times during all those years and since she was an artist I am concerned that I (and my brother) will not get our inheritance from him freely. What right do we Children have after our mother (I do not believe she made a will) and how can we inpose it, see to it that we get our inheritance (mostly paintings and personal items)? Will German law be applicable or Swedish Law? She lived in Hattenbach, 36272 Niederaula, do you know of someone who could help me with this?
    Best regards,
    A

  72. Mike Tencer says:

    Hi , my dads brother died and his wife died as well. There is no living will. They had house together. The house is worth 90,000 euros’ split between the survivors. Which I believe is 7 remaining. My question is it’s been on going since 2007 and there is no resolution. Delay after delay. There is a law firm that is looking after the estate but it never seem to end. Is there a avenue that I can take that would speed things up?

    • I would need to look at all the paperwork to see what actually “has been going on”.
      If there are more than one heir, each one of them can force the sale of the property in an auction and the proceeds will be split.

  73. Krystyna hall says:

    I am heir to my deceased german uncles estate. How do I gain access to his apartment ( no keys available nor do I know who the landlord is) in Germany to access information regarding any assets and debts he may have in order to make an informed decision whether or not to accept this inheritance. I am british and do not speak german. Help please!
    Krystyna

    • Because you live abroad, you have 6 months to accept or decline the inheritance, so there is no rush.
      You can contact the estate court, but depending on the address it might be easier to find out the landlord’s name through the neighbors or the land register.

      I will be happy to help with everything, but I am in South America this year and it might be easier for you to hire someone in Germany.

  74. Hi there:
    Long story short: my aunt (dads sister) German citizen, passed away leaving a will. She was married but spouse is deceased. She had no children and her parents are deceased. A will named two of her sisters in law, a friend, and the child of her sister who had previously passed. Nieces and nephews are the next blood relatives. We (the nieces and nephews) are being sent a document to sign. If we are not in the will, why would we need to sign anything? Thank you ps. We are all Americans, including the sisters in law.

    • It would be so much easier for me to answer that question if you email (moser@moser-law.com) me the letter you received and a copy of the will.

      I do however have to charge 100 $ for my reading, research, thinking and reply time.

  75. Lynne says:

    Good day

    I have a question please.

    My daughter’s father who is a German citizen had a will drawn up in 1989 snd left his estate to his 2 nieces vutsubsequently we had a child together. My daughter is South African. How does this affect her entitlement to her late father’s estate?

    Kind regards
    Lynne

    • Like I say in the FAQ above, under German law children cannot be disinherited so easily.
      When did the father die? What happened to the estate?

  76. Joanna says:

    Dear Mr Moser, my step-aunt passed away the other day, she has lived in the US for the last 50 years and became a citizen….she owns property…and her next of kin is her only living sister who lives in Germany….My cousin told me there is no way a German citizen even though she is her blood next of kin, can inherit her property and that it has to be passed down to her step children. is this true…I want to tell her sister in Germany what to do but I’m not sure my self….thank you Joanna

    • That information is NOT true. Neither the US nor Germany have any restrictions on real estate ownership/inheritance by foreigners.

      • Joanna says:

        thank you so much….this is wonderful news for her sister and I’m so glad I didn’t take my cousins statements as fact and asked….I appreciate your help….Joanna

      • Thank you! I am also glad you found my site and asked. It’s shocking what people will attempt to do to get their hands on someone’s estate.

  77. lea bowers says:

    Hello Sir, I apologize if this has been asked already. I missed it if it was. My great-grandfather died in 1991. He left a wife and 2 daughters, 1 of which was from a previous marriage and is my grandmother. My grandmother immigrated to the U.S., but never became a citizen. When her father died, she received notice of inheritance, but my grandfather would not allow her to collect saying the lawyer they needed would cost more than it was worth. She never sent a letter of refusal, but has lost all pertinent papers. My grandmother is now curious as to what happened to her share and if she can still claim rights to it. I tried contacting the German Consulate in Seattle for info, but was only told there is a 30 year expiration on inheritance claims and offered no other information. I will be vacationing in Hameln where her half-sister lives and her father died. She is hounding me to get her information. Can you help me in getting it for her?

    • Yes, I can. But the easiest thing would be to ask the other relatives and check with the estate court in Hameln.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have to edit my original inquiry. Apparently some facts got mixed up. My grandmother was offered $10k by her father if she would release interest in his estate/inheritance after he wasn’t pass. She never accepted. He died, she was never notified. Her half sister knew she existed and their mutual cousins had her contact info. So much time has passed my grandmother has lost all information on family other than names. Last contact with them was in 1972. I would contact her relatives, but don’t have any info on them other than names and most of them are assuredly passed on, except maybe her half sister who was 15years younger than her, but they had never met. I am trying to search estate/probate office in Hameln but am unable to locate such. Can you point me in another direction? Thank you so much for your time and help.

      • This is the court in Hameln: http://www.amtsgericht-hameln.niedersachsen.de – but because your case is getting more and more convoluted, I would need to charge my consultation fee of 400 EUR to provide any advice. I would also need a neat timeline of events and a family tree, based on which I would then ask further questions before I start the legal research. Before the facts are clear, there is no point in answering legal questions.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you very much for the link! I will work on a timeline and give your info and recommend to my mother and uncle if they wish to take it further. Thank you again!!! I appreciate it.

  78. Katja says:

    Hi there, I have a question also, found your blog, you seem to know a lot about this, so if I may? My dad is getting palatial care and we are bracing ourselves for the worst. I live in HK, dad and mum are in DE. I am mentioned as the executrix of the will, they have reciprocal wills, I am not 100% familiar with the terms of the wills but I would expect that all goes to mum and then on her death all goes to me (brother died some time ago). Anyhow, I know that they had to do an “equity release” on the house and owe money on this. My question, sorry not familiar with the German inheritance laws, is how are the modalities on dad’s death, does mum have to pay the interest and capital sum back at once? Or does this not apply as it is the marital home and the debt will become due on both death? Does this debt fall to me and do I have to pay at the point probate is granted? Having read around this a bit, do I understand this correctly, i.e. on my inheriting I am receiving both, the debt and the property automatically? What also interests me is if I was to dissolve the household, do I pay inheritance tax on all of the items that are in the house? Does that mean I have to value everything for accounting to the Revenue?

    • I will answer the easy questions first:
      – Yes, under German law the whole estate, assets and liabilities, are passed on at the same time.
      – Inheritance tax is due on the net worth of the inheritance. That would include household items, but unless there are valuable paintings or an expensive piano, nobody would care about that. The tax authorities would mainly be interested in the real estate and bank accounts. As the daughter, you may inherit up to 400,000 EUR (net value) without having to pay German taxes.

      – For the other questions, I would need to read the will, the loan/mortgage documents and I would need to know who owns what share of the house. My e-mail is moser@moser-law.com. Because of the reading required, I would need to charge my full consultation fee of 400 EUR for that.

      – Is your father’s medical care fully covered by an insurance? If not, we also have to consider the care provider’s claims.

      (Wenn es Ihnen lieber ist, können Sie übrigens auch gerne auf Deutsch schreiben. Dann können wir auch die richtigen Begriffe aus dem Testament und der Grundstücksbelastung verwenden.)

  79. Khan Abdul says:

    Hi,
    My question about my wife’s Nephew. He is teenage and have no parents. The mother nd father both died. According the german law as caretaker can we have permission about it for living and higher education with us from Pakistan.We live in Germany and have no child.

    • Yes, that’s possible, but it’s a complicated process because it involves two countries. We would need to look at the whole family situation (is there anyone in Pakistan to care for him? what is his relationship to your wife and you? are you already close or would he feel like moving to strangers?) and then there is of course the language hurdle if he were to go to school in Germany.

  80. Michael Chan says:

    Hi Andreas,
    Referring to FAQ #6, what will be the minimum of the estate if, say in your example, they spouse and the children if they are disinherited?
    Cheers,
    Michael

    • 50% of what they would receive under statutory rules (i.e. in the absence of a last will).

      • michael chan says:

        Thanks a lot Andreas.
        A follow up question, if say there is a will to give 90% of the estate to the spouse, 5% only to each child. Would the children be able to claim for 50% of what they would receive under statutory rules in the absence of a last will?
        .

      • Follow-up questions are always a good time to make a donation to my Paypal account moser@moser-law.com to show appreciation for my service. Thank you!

  81. Sara Adam says:

    Hi Andreas,
    My Dad is not German citizen, nor lived in Germany or Europe .. so are his family a wife and 3 daughters; he studied there only when he was young and opened a bank account there. After marriage & daughters he did for the wife and the daughters a full autorny long years ago and the bank account holds cash & funds & assets (maybe realestate investment) . He passed away in January & untill the release of the documents the full autorny is valid for decisions related to the accounts but not withdrawal ofcourse. He did not do a will in Germany.
    How the law applies in Germany?
    Regards
    Sara

  82. Sara Adam says:

    Hi Andreas,
    thanx for replying so fast. My question is how the german private international law applies regarding movable and immovable properties according to a nongerman nationality/domicile deceased.
    Sara

    • I will be happy to answer that once I receive a donation. I also need to know your father’s citizenship and domicile because there are bilateral agreements with some countries.

  83. Rita Zieman says:

    I have a German client living in the United States. When she dies, she wants to leave her money, etc. to her relatives in Germany. How does she accomplish that? With just a will, or does she need a trust? Thank you.

    • Under German law, a simple will will take care of it (but she has to consider forced heirship rights). And she also has to consider the law of conflicts for estate law of her state of residence in the US.

  84. Rali says:

    Hallo,
    a dutch lady here, married to a German man. My husband would like to do his testament, but we are not quite clear how to arrange the matter. We own a house in the Netherlands, but we live (rent in Germany). We have no kids, my husband has living parents. We are married in communality of goods and live that way. Which law applies for our dutch property? We are trying to avoid a situation where I will have to sell the house in NL to pay off his parents. What is the legitimate portion for his parents and evt siblings?

    Thank you very much.

    • Because I need to research the Dutch law, I cannot really answer this question for free. Please e-mail me at moser@moser-law.com for an e-mail consultation, for which I charge 200 EUR. I would of course also need to know what your husband actually wants to do with the house and his other assets. The will of the owner should guide anything we do.

  85. Daniel Behling says:

    My uncle recently passed away in Germany, I live in the United States. My father was named in his will, but he is also deceased, so apparently his portion of the inheritance should go to me and my siblings. An aunt has wrote me to tell that there is nothing in the estate so we need to reject the inheritance. How can I find out what is in the estate?

  86. Solveig says:

    Hello Andreas
    My grandmother, 98 years old, German citizen and lived in Germany, just died. My father pasted away some years ago. He lived in Norway but was also a German citizen. Me and my siblings are Norwegian citizens. My uncle claims there is a written will that her assets are to be shared between her two sons, EXEPT a holliday house in Spain that he should inheret, for a compansation of 10.000 euro to his brother. BUT now he says there is a shortage in her finance and after dedjucting this 10.000 euro on my fathers inheritance he claims we have to pay this. My grandmother lived at a nursing home the last 20 years. In this time my uncle has sold her apartment in Germany. He claims he got her authority to handle her finances. She had altzheimer and have probably given him this authority unknowing what it was.

    My questions is:
    1. Regarding the house in Spain – Is it allowed to put a random amount as a compensation? (The house value should be at least 150.000 euro.) And is it allowed to disinheret one child like this?
    2. I guess my grandmother had some kind of pension during her stay in the nursing home. This should probably cover the expences for her stay?
    3. What about life insurance? Shoulden’t this also cover for a stay in the nursing home?
    4. I guess we are entitled to get a full overview of all the finances?

    • I am very sorry about your grandmother passing away, but I can impossibly answer such a number of complicated questions for free. Please contact me at moser@moser-law.com. I would also need to see copies of the will, the power of attorney and any other relevant document. I charge 400 EUR for an initial consultation.

  87. Toni Pakay says:

    My brother is homeless, we are unable to find him,he is a U S citizen, but has an inheritance in Germany. He is 1/8th owner of an apartment complex in Germany due to our mother passing away. We would like to sell the complex, but can’t find the 8th heir. Is their a procedure we must follow when an heir is missing according to German law?

    • As always in inheritance questions, I’ll e happy to answer that after receiving a donation of at least 100 EUR through the Paypal button on the top right.

      I would also be curious what steps you have undertaken to locate your brother and how long he has been absent. How old is he? Is there unity among the other 7/8 to sell the apartment complex?

  88. my stepdad just passed away in germany and I live in England, am I intiteled to any of his money?

    • Only if you are mentioned in the testament.
      The relationship between step-parents and step-children is not a legal relationship that would lead to automatic inheritance.

  89. If my niece in germany my step dad’s granddaughter has been left any money is she ablished to share it ?

    • I don’t know what is the relationship between your niece, your stepdad’s granddaughter and you, I don’t know what “ablished to share” means, nor do I know who has received how much money from whom on what grounds.

      Please postulate the question with all these details and make a donation of at least 100 EUR before I answer it. In order to determine applicable law, it would also be useful to mention the citizenship and the place of residence of everyone involved.

  90. marife felices fornalczyk says:

    i am married to a german died 2001 we have one child 17 yrs old now. we did not claim any inheritance..but we are recieving child support. is it possible we can claim any even we live in philippines?

  91. Paul says:

    Hi Andreas, thank you for running this forum.

    My question: my German wife recently passed away, her daughter “my stepdaughter” had been nominated as the Hier, she is claiming that all her mothers assets financial and materialistic are hers and i have no rights, only what was willed to me in the testament is mine, My wife and i were married in Germany for 26 years. Do i have any rights? or claims.
    I thank you in advance.

    Paul.

    • Dear Paul,
      I am sorry to read about your wife’s death.
      As the spouse you are entitled to half of the statutory share even if you were not mentioned in the testament. To calculate the exact share, I would need to know if you had a prenuptial agreement, how many other family members there are and I’d like to take a look at the will. I charge 400 EUR for a consultation.

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