Inheritance in Germany

Inheritance in Germany

Updated on Wednesday 24th August 2022

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Inheritance-in-GermanyLegislation on inheritance in Germany

Inheritance is governed by the Civil Code in Germany. The principle inheritance is based on in Germany is the ‘universal succession’ principle. According to the universal succession principle, all rights and responsibilities of a deceased person are immediately transferred to their heirs. In case of multiple heirs a “community of heirs” formed. In this case, the community of heirs will decide the division of assets.

Inheritance and wills fall under the jurisdiction of the Probate and the Surrogate Courts in Germany. The two courts usually rule in the division of assets of German citizens in two or more countries. The German succession legislation also follows the EU regulations on inheritance and succession. According to EU directives, an inheritance law must distinguish between rightful heirs and other beneficiaries of an estate in Germany.

The declaration of renouncement of succession in Germany

Like in other EU states, Germany also offers heirs the possibility of renunciation of succession. In order to do so, the heirs must notify the German Surrogate Court within six weeks about their decision. In case of German heirs living abroad, the renouncement term can be extended to up to six months. The signatures on the declaration of renouncement must be certified by a German notary.

The statutory share in inheritance cases in Germany

According to the German Inheritance Law, children, spouses and parents are the rightful heirs to an estate. They are entitled to claim half of what they would have received in case the deceased would have not left a will. This is called a statutory share. Statutory shares may be claimed within three years from receiving the notification about the entitlement to succession in Germany.

Our law firm in Germany can provide you more details about statutory shares in inheritance matters.

The taxation of inheritance in Germany

Germany does not levy a tax on estate. However, the Inheritance and Gift Tax Act, the Foreign Tax Act and the German taxation laws contain provision about the taxation of inheritance. Tax rates in cases of inheritance vary from 17% to 50% depending on the degree of relationship with the deceased. There are three tax classes for inheritances in Germany.

The German legislation on the division of the inheritance

The German Inheritance Law offers the legal framework in which the division of assets can be done. Moreover this act has been elaborated so that the rights of the family to be protected from disinheritance. According to the law, a testator can elaborate a will and decide to whom he desires to leave his properties. However there are also some limitations imposed so that the children of the testator to keep their rights to at least a third of the estate. 
Interstate provisions of the Succession Law regulate how German assets are inherited by heirs who live abroad. One or more heirs need to assume the responsibility for the payment of eventual debts and to make sure the distribution of the estate is conducted properly.
One of our German layers can help you determine what steps need to be followed in the division of inheritance in Germany

More aspects concerning inheritance in Germany

According to the Succession Law, the exact amount which can be claimed by a spouse or a child of the deceased person depends on the structure of the family. For example if a testator is married and has children as well, the spouse and the children must receive equal shares of the estate.
The distributed assets enter in the property of the inheritors who need to contact the authorities in order to pay the inheritance tax. Each beneficiary must check whether he/she is exempted from the tax obligations, that is if the inherited amount remains under a certain limit. For examples spouses do not have to pay an inheritance tax if they inherit less than 500000 euros. However, other more distant relatives have the limit set at 20.000 euros. 

For detailed information about how the inheritance tax is calculated or on  the division of inheritance in this country please contact our lawyers in Germany.