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.
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.
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.
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.
For detailed information about how the inheritance tax in calculated please contact our lawyers in Germany.
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