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Application for a German certificate of inheritance

If a person dies who leaves inheritance (e.g. money, valuables, savings, real estate, etc.) in Germany, German land registry offices, banks and sometimes also pension authorities in the event of inheritance usually require one from the heirs before transferring or paying out Certificate of inheritance. This applies regardless of whether the testator was a German or a foreign citizen.

1. What is a certificate of inheritance?
A certificate of inheritance is an official document that proves in legal transactions that and to what extent the persons listed therein are legal heirs after the deceased person.

2. Types of certificates of inheritance
A partial inheritance certificate is a certificate of inheritance only for the applicant according to his share of the inheritance. A joint certificate of inheritance is issued for several, but not all, heirs, while a joint certificate of inheritance is valid for all heirs together. There are also so-called minimum (partial) inheritance certificates, which are (or have to be) issued only very rarely. Which type of certificate of inheritance is desired must be indicated in the application form.

3. Who can apply for a certificate of inheritance?
Any (presumed) heir can apply for a German certificate of inheritance. In principle, the application must be submitted in person. Since certain information must be given in the form of an affidavit, a notarization and thus a personal visit by at least one of the heirs is required. Appointments are therefore necessary.

4. Where can I apply for a certificate of inheritance?
In Germany, the certificate of inheritance is applied for either directly at the competent local court - as probate court - for recording or through a German notary. According to § 73 FGG, the responsibility is regulated as follows. If the deceased had a place of residence or stay in Germany, the district court of this place of residence / stay is responsible, regardless of the nationality of the deceased. If the deceased was a German citizen and was neither resident nor domiciled in Germany, the district court of Schöneberg, Grunewaldstrasse 66-67, 10823 Berlin, is responsible. If the deceased was a foreign national and was neither domiciled nor resident in Germany, then every court in whose district there are objects of the estate has jurisdiction. One of several possible local courts will be selected, which will then be responsible for the entire probate process.

If the heir is abroad, the application for the certificate of inheritance can also be submitted to the responsible German diplomatic mission and notarized.

5. What documents are required for a certificate of inheritance application?
In principle, all information in the certificate of inheritance application must be proven by appropriate documents. The specific documents to be submitted therefore depend on the individual case. As a rule, however, these are:

- Applicant's passport / identity card
- Passport / identity card of the testator
- Death certificate of the testator
- all wills of the testator
- Foreign certificates of inheritance, inheritance decisions, etc., if available
- Correspondence with German institutions, authorities, lawyers etc. is helpful.

If the heir bases his right of inheritance on an existing marriage or family relationship:

- Marriage certificate
- Marriage certificates of possible marriage with a divorce notice
- Birth or descent certificates of all heirs to whom the certificate of inheritance is to apply - if spouses or relatives entitled to inherit have previously died, their death certificates
- In the case of a renunciation of inheritance: contract of renunciation of inheritance or details of the depository
- In the event of succession, reference to the files available at the probate court

6. In what form are the documents to be submitted?
The German probate court usually requires the submission of original documents or certified copies of the originals. These are to be submitted to the embassy in preparation for the application for a certificate of inheritance and a simple copy must be provided. However, the originals or certified copies of the documents must be brought with you by the notarization date at the latest, unless they have already been submitted to the German probate court. Foreign-language documents usually have to be submitted with a certified translation; civil status documents can be presented as multilingual, so-called international documents. The translations should always have been made by an authorized translator.

7. Costs and Fees
The fees for accepting the application for a certificate of inheritance and notarizing the affidavit are based on the value of the inheritance or the portion of the inheritance.
In addition, the competent court in Germany incurs fees for processing and issuing the certificate of inheritance, which are also based on the value of the inheritance or the portion of the inheritance and are invoiced in writing.

8. Procedure

To apply for a certificate of inheritance, contact the embassy by phone or in writing. You will then be sent a questionnaire, which you should fill out and return to the embassy with the most extensive documents possible (see under 5.). The embassy then prepares the certificate of inheritance application and then makes an appointment with the applicant. If there are any questions beforehand, the embassy will contact the applicant.

9. Do I have to pay inheritance tax in Germany?
To avoid double taxation, a new agreement came into force between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Croatia on December 20, 2006, replacing the old double taxation agreement concluded with the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The aim of the agreement is to prevent the taxation of the same business activity, which is generally provided for in both countries. However, since inheritance tax does not systematically fit into this framework, the agreement does not apply in this area.

Unfortunately, the embassy cannot answer the question of inheritance taxation here. Please contact the responsible German and Croatian tax authorities for this. You can find more information on the website of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Important legal changes for international inheritance from August 17th, 2015

From August 17, 2015, the European Inheritance Law Regulation (Regulation EU No. 650/2012, EU Inheritance Regulation) is applicable. This new EU regulation regulates which inheritance law is to be applied to an international case of inheritance.

Courts and other organs of the administration of justice in the states of the EU (except in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark) will in future judge according to the EU inheritance law which national law applies if an inheritance has a foreign element.

Until now, according to German law (Art 25 EGBGB), legal succession after death was subject to the law of the state to which the testator belonged at the time of his death. If the testator was German, German inheritance law applied. This changes with the EU inheritance law regulation.

For inheritance from August 17, 2015, the entire legal succession due to death is subject to the law of the state in which the testator had his last habitual residence at the time of his death (Art. 21 EU Inheritance Regulation).

Foreign regulations on legal succession can differ significantly from German inheritance regulations.

Where is the habitual residence?

Someone's habitual abode is where they may be, which indicate that they are not only staying temporarily in this place or in this area. This is determined on the basis of the actual circumstances; In doing so, it is determined where the focus of social contacts is to be found, especially in family and professional terms. An intended contiguous stay of more than six months is always considered to be not just temporary, and short-term interruptions are not taken into account.

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

Determining habitual residence can be difficult. This applies, for example, if someone does not stay in one place permanently, but for example lives in another country for a period of time 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 inheritance law of the country of which they are citizens to apply in the event of their death must in future make a corresponding choice of law.

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

The new EU regulation applies if the testator dies on August 17, 2015 or afterwards (Art. 83 (1) EU Inheritance Regulation). 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 is a national (Art. 83 Para. 2, 3 EU Inheritance Regulation), remains after August 17 Effective in 2015.

Considerations about 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 their own estate planning today.

For example, consider which distribution of the estate corresponds to your wishes and whether you have to make a death disposition in order for it to occur (usually this means: making a will). Think about 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, check it out. If necessary, add a choice of law clause. Please note, however, that your amendment is formally valid under the law of the drawing up of the will.

If you are unsure: let us advise you!

Lastly, most importantly, probate issues can be very complicated. If you are wondering how best to get a estate settlement that suits your needs; if you are unsure where your habitual residence is, what the new regulation means for you in concrete terms, or if you have any other questions regarding the regulation of your estate, you should definitely seek advice from specialized lawyers or notaries! Please understand that legal advice may not be provided by German diplomatic missions in individual cases.

All information is based on the knowledge and experience of the embassy at the time of writing. No guarantee can be given for the completeness and correctness, in particular due to changes that have occurred in the meantime.