Auf einem orangefarbenen Papier liegt ein Füller.

Erbrecht und Nachlassangelegenheiten, © Colourbox


General information on German inheritance law

If you wish to waive an inheritance, please read the information in the information sheet on waiving an inheritance (see here) carefully before contacting the German Embassy. In the information sheet, you will also find a sample text for a waiver. In order to effectively waive the inheritance, your signature on the letter must be notarized.

Please also read the detailed information on notarization of signatures.

About the EU Succession Regulation

The European Succession Regulation (Regulation EU No. 650/2012, EU Succession Regulation) has been applicable since August 17, 2015. This new EU regulation governs which inheritance law is to be applied to an international succession.

Previously, under German law (Art. 25 EGBGB), succession upon death was subject to the law of the state to which the testator belonged at the time of his/her death. If the deceased was German, German inheritance law therefore applied. This is changing as a result of the EU Succession Regulation.

For inheritance cases from August 17, 2015, the entire legal succession is subject to the law of the country in which the deceased had their last habitual residence at the time of their death (Art. 21 EU Succession Regulation).

In the future, courts and other judicial bodies in the EU member state (with the exception of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark) will use the EU Succession Regulation to determine which national law applies if an inheritance case has a foreign connection.

Foreign regulations on intestate succession may differ considerably from German inheritance law regulations.

Where is the habitual residence?

A person has their habitual residence where they are staying under circumstances which indicate that they are staying in this place or in this area on a more than temporary basis. This is determined on the basis of the actual circumstances; it is established where the focus of social contacts is to be sought, in particular in family and professional terms. An intended continuous stay of more than six months is always and from the outset considered to be more than temporary; short-term interruptions are not taken into account.

A person's habitual residence can therefore change as soon as they move to another location. This applies to people who move abroad permanently, but also to those who only move abroad temporarily, at least if the stay there is planned for more than six months and the actual center of existence is relocated.

Determining habitual residence can be difficult. This applies, for example, if someone does not stay permanently in one place, but lives for a while in another country and then again for a while in Germany and has close social ties in both places.

Choice of law

Anyone who has their habitual residence abroad but still wants the law of succession of their country of nationality to apply in the event of their death must make a corresponding choice of law.

This choice of law must either be made expressly in a declaration in the form of a disposition of property upon death - usually a will - or must at least result from the provisions of such a disposition of property upon death (Art. 22 EU Succession Regulation). For reasons of legal certainty, an explicit choice is recommended.

The new EU Regulation must be applied if the testator dies on or after August 17, 2015 (Art. 83 para. 1 EU Succession Regulation). However, a choice of law made before August 17, 2015, which - for example - was made in accordance with the law of the state of which the deceased was a national (Art. 83 para. 2, 3 EU Succession Regulation), remains effective even after August 17, 2015.

Considerations regarding your own estate

Even if many people shy away from thinking about their own death for understandable reasons, it makes sense to start thinking about your own estate planning today.

Consider, for example, which distribution of the estate corresponds to your wishes and whether you need to make a corresponding disposition of property upon death (usually this means making a will) in order for this to occur. Consider where you have your habitual residence and whether it is necessary in your case to make the choice of law described above.

If you have already made a will, it is recommended to recheck. If necessary, add a choice of law clause to it. Please note, however, that your addition is formally valid according to the law applicable when the will was drawn up.

If you are unsure: Seek advice!

Finally, the most important thing: Probate issues can be very complicated. If you are wondering how best to achieve an estate settlement that meets your wishes; if you are unsure where your habitual residence is, what the new settlement means for you in concrete terms, or if you have any other questions regarding the settlement of your estate, be sure to seek advice from specialized legal advisors or notaries.

Top of page