The German certificate of inheritance (“Erbschein”) is an official certificate with which you prove for instance to banks that you are the rightful heir. The German certificate of inheritance testified that the person acting as an heir is the legal heir. For instance, you are the heir and you inherited money which is located at a bank in Germany, the bank where the deceased’s account is maintained will not provide you with any information and will not transfer the money to your account unless you prove that you are heir. This proof is accomplished by presenting a German certificate of inheritance.
How do I obtain a German certificate of inheritance?
The German certificate of inheritance is granted only upon an application in the so-called “Erbscheinsverfahren”. Since the procedure to obtain a German certificate of inheritance is cumbersome, lengthy and very expensive, you should inquire in advance whether you need a certificate of inheritance. Please contact us to arrange an initial consultation, so that we can analyze your situation and determine whether you need a certificate of inheritance.
Application of a German certificate of inheritance
As part of the application process you must differ between a variety of certificates of inheritance. The following different kind of German certificates of inheritance exist:
Alleinerbschein : The “Alleinerbschein”, also called the sole certificate of inheritance is issued to a sole heir.
Gemeinschaftlicher Erbschein: The so called “Gemeinschaftlicher Erbschein”, shared certificate of inheritance is issued to a community of heirs if there are several heirs; the certificate of inheritance identifies the respective shares in estates in the certificate .
Teilerbschein: A so called “Teilerbschein” will be requested if there are several heirs, but each heir asks for a single and separate certificate of inheritance.
Gruppenerbschein: A so called “Gruppenerbschein” can be applied for when several co-owners would like their shares to be summarized in one legal document.
Shared Certificate of Inheritance is for a community of heirs if only part of the joint heirs want to be represented in the certificate of inheritance.
“Gegenstaendlich beschraenkter Erbschein”: An objectively limited certificate of inheritance is for cases in which the deceased left assets in different countries.
Since each inheritance matter is different, you should contact us before filing any applications with the probate court so that we can assess your situation and can request the correct German certificate of inheritance to ensure that all assets that you are entitled to are given to you.
A particular problem often arises when the heir lives abroad, such as in the United States, and the assets that were inherited are located in a different country, for instance Germany, because in order to obtain your share, you as the heir must formally petition to the appropriate German probate court. As German attorneys with an office in the U.S. and in Germany, we can make the request on your behalf, so you may only have to provide a sworn statement before a German consulate officer in the U.S.
Who can apply for a German certificate of inheritance?
The application can be filed by the following persons:
- the heir,
- the provisional heir,
- the heir of the heir,
- the personal representative,
- the executor,
- the legal representative of an heir ( eg the parents of a minor ),
- estate and inheritance creditor if they submit an enforceable order,
- the “Nachlassinsolvenzverwalter”,
- the “Auseinandersetzungspfleger“ ( § 88 FGG ), and
- the “Abwesenheitspfleger“.
Which court has jurisdiction to provide a German certificate of inheritance?
As explained above, the German certificate of inheritance will be issued upon a properly filed application. The competent body to which the application of a German certificate of inheritance must be submitted, is the German Probate Court (District Court ) in which the deceased had his/her last residence. If the deceased does not have a residence there, then the district court of that judicial district has jurisdiction in which the deceased last resided. If there was no place of residence and the deceased did not last reside in Germany, then the district court Berlin -Schöneberg has jurisdiction over the probate matter.
What documents are required to obtain a certificate of inheritance?
The following documents should be provided with your application:
When claiming your right based on an intestate procedure:
Identity card or passport,
Death certificate (for the time of death),
Family records (for the family relationship to the deceased),
Information on whether and which people are represented that could exclude your right to be an heir,
Information on whether and how wills and last will and testaments are in existence,
Information about whether a lawsuit is filed regarding the inheritance, and
Information regarding the matrimonial property of the deceased.
When claiming your right based on a last will and testament:
Identity card or passport,
Testament or last will and testament,
Information on whether you have knowledge of other dispositions of the deceased, and
Information about whether a lawsuit is filed regarding the inheritance.
Court costs for applying for the German certificate of inheritance
The court costs for the issuance of a German certificate of inheritance for assets to be valued at about 100,000 Euros, for example is 414.00 Euros, and for inheritance assets that are valued to be 500,000.00 Euros, it is about 1614.00 Euro .
Legal consequences and effects of the certificate of inheritance
The certificate of inheritance proves an heir as the rightful heir with the content contained in the certificate of inheritance. It is believed that the person that is identified in the certificate is an heir. This assumption is valid until proven otherwise. That remains true until the Probate Court becomes aware of facts that speak for the inaccuracy of the certificate of inheritance. If necessary, the false certificate of inheritance will be revoked and a new certificate of inheritance will be issued. Also, the revocation of the certificate of inheritance can be petitioned for by any person that has a legitimate interest in the revocation.