German Inheritance and Probate Proceedings

When a friend or family member in Germany has passed away, it may be unclear what steps you should take to ensure that you receive the German inheritance that is entitled to you. The German American Law Center PLC has both German attorneys and U.S. American lawyers that understand German inheritance law and German probate law and know how to correctly navigate the German legal system and the German probate proceedings.

What you should know

In the case of a succession of the estate, the estate transfers either whole or in part to one or more heirs of in accordance to § 1922 subsection 1 German Civil Code. The heir inherits pursuant to the statutory legal universal succession. An appointed heir is not only the new owner of all property and rights, but also assumes all obligations of the deceased, i.e. the heir inherits all debts of the deceased as well.
The right to be an heir may derive from an arrangement of the deceased (dead) on the basis of a testamentary disposition, such as e.g. a last will and testament, or if there is no testamentary disposal, from the succession laid down by the legislator (legal succession).
If you are sure that the estate is not indebted, one should declare the acceptance of the probate estate. In order to prove his status as an heir, usually a certificate of inheritance is required.

Doctrine of Universal Succession

In the German probate process, the German court system may appoint you an attorney, but this attorney may not be the most reliable. It is better to have your personal attorney, who speaks your language as well as German so you can effectively communicate with the attorney you trust and who can also efficiently navigate the German legal system. Unlike US probate law, German probate law is federal, and therefore, all 16 German states have the same laws in regard to inheritance matters. In addition, when it comes to inheritance law Germany follows the doctrine of universal succession. This doctrine dictates that the heir(s) of the decedent inherit both the assets and debts of the deceased’s estate at the time of their death.

If there are more liabilities than assets, you may want to disclaim your inheritance.
You have to file inheritance tax returns in Germany to be able to obtain the inheritance assets.
  • Certificate of inheritance

    The German certificate of inheritance (“Erbschein”) is an official certificate with which you prove for instance to banks that you are the rightful heir.

  • Obtain a certificate of inheritance

    The German certificate of inheritance is granted only upon an application in the so-called “Erbscheinsverfahren”.

  • Contact us

    Contact us with specific questions and schedule your initial consultation today!

  • German American Law Center PLC

    2740 N. Meridian Rd
    Sanford, MI 48657

    Ph: +1.989.687.5255
    Fax: +1.888.687.5256
    Email: info[at]