German Inheritance & Probate Lawyer

Legal Solutions Made in Germany

and Probate

Legal Solutions Made in Germany

Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte PartG mbB is a full-service law firm active all over Germany. Our inheritance law specialist Dr Thomas Bichat advises clients on the legal issues arising, while at all times being aware of the sensitivity inherent in inheritance law disputes. With offices and conference rooms in Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, we are available nationwide. We offer comprehensive support to clients based outside of Germany who require guidance on German inheritance law.

German Inheritance Law Services
for Estate Planning

Our lawyers support clients in matters regarding estate planning and business succession planning. Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte assist testators to draft their will and advise them with key issues of German inheritance law.

German Inheritance Law Services
for Heirs

When inheriting in Germany, it is crucial for heirs to be aware of the requirements of German law. Our lawyers support heirs in obtaining the required documents, advise them in the event of joint succession and represent them should legal disputes occur.

German Inheritance Law Services
for Estate Planning

Our lawyers support clients in matters regarding estate planning and business succession planning. Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte assist testators to draft their will and advise them with key issues of German inheritance law.

German Inheritance Law Services
for Heirs

When inheriting in Germany, it is crucial for heirs to be aware of the requirements of German law. Our lawyers support heirs in obtaining the required documents, advise them in the event of joint succession and represent them should legal disputes occur.

German Inheritance Lawyer: Estate Planning

Some inheritance law issues will arise before a testator’s death and it is vital to get the right legal advice in such matters. It must be noted that there are complications inherent in drafting wills and in estate planning, as there are certain formalities which must be observed to ensure that the will is valid. Professional assistance with drafting a final testament can ensure that the following questions are answered:

  • Who should my heirs be and how are they to receive their inheritance?
  • Can I transfer my assets to my spouse or children under favourable conditions during my lifetime?
  • How can I ensure that after my death, everything happens the way I envisioned?

Our experienced and accomplished inheritance lawyer, Dr Thomas Bichat, is available and ready to answer all of these questions and much more. Through a personal meeting, he will advise you on how you can best fulfil your wishes and ideas regarding your will and final testament.

Business Succession Planning and Estate Planning

Having dedicated their time to building a successful business, entrepreneurs often face the challenge of safeguarding their company to ensure that future generations can benefit from its continued growth and prosperity. Having a solid business succession plan is crucial for entrepreneurs in companies of all sizes. Determining the right person, or group of people, to continue the running of the business is an important consideration.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our full-service approach can examine this situation from inheritance and corporate law angles and outline the legal implications of the chosen succession route. Our corporate and contract lawyers can determine whether the company’s articles of association allow the testator to make a gift to their successor or whether the successor can acquire the required shares within the company. If the chosen route is by family succession, our team will support you in designing a family foundation to protect your assets.

Drafting and Review of German Wills

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers assist our clients with drafting wills to ensure that they are legally valid. By working with our lawyers, you can make sure to avoid common pitfalls present within the will-making process. We also support our clients when they need to change elements within or revoke their wills. Often, wills have international elements, particularly for German testators with heirs abroad or testators from other countries with German heirs. Our team advises clients regarding issues, such as der Pflichtteil (the compulsory share) and how difficulties within the community of heirs (“die Erbengemeinschaft”) can be avoided.

Inheritance Contract

The inheritance contract (Erbvertrag) is a binding agreement between at least two parties, including the testator. It is a means of disposition of property and assets following the testator’s passing. In comparison to a will, an inheritance contract is less flexible and subject to more robust legal requirements. Changing or cancelling an inheritance contract involves drafting an agreement with the other parties, and it must be notarized. An inheritance contract allows the testator to place specific demands on the prospective heir. An inheritance contract may consist of the testator leaving their property to the heir; however, the heir may face obligations to take care of the testator in their old age.

Guidance with International Inheritance Cases

If you are a testator who has heirs based abroad or if you live outside of Germany but wish to leave property or assets to an heir in Germany, consulting with an inheritance lawyer may be in your best interest. Complex questions concerning inheritance tax, the power of disposition and obtaining bank account information can arise, preventing your heirs from obtaining their inheritance.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our German inheritance lawyers will outline the legal requirements specific to your personal situation. Once we have the required information, our team will support you by making you aware of the legal necessities and help you to avoid pitfalls that may cause your heirs difficulty in the future. We have worked with clients worldwide.

The Pflichtteil / Compulsory Share of inheritance

The compulsory (minimum) share of a person’s inheritance (in German: “ der Pflichtteil”) is an amount that a testator is obliged to (according to law) leave to certain family members. The Pflichtteil varies depending on the relationship between the heir and the testator and the family situation.  Generally, the Pflichtteil is present for the children and spouse of the testator but can also involve their parents and grandchildren, depending on the situation. The Pflichtteil is legislated for under § 2303 BGB and ensures that they are not left out of the will. However, there are some particular cases where a close family member can be excluded from the Pflichtteil. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our inheritance law team is ready to answer all of your questions and support you in your legal case.

Advice for Heirs – German Inheritance Lawyer

The death of a family member can lead to many legal difficulties, and at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers are here to support you. Inheritance law requirements in Germany can leave heirs with many questions over the final testament and the actions they need to take to acquire their property. Our lawyers will assist you with obtaining bank account information, the power of disposition, and gaining inheritance certificates (“Erbscheine”).

Aspects of an inheritance can also be controversial. There may be suspicions of undue influence in drafting a will that our lawyers can investigate. In cases where family members have been deliberately written out of the will, disputes can arise regarding the mandatory share of the inheritance (das Pflichtteil). Cases with multiple heirs (a “community of heirs”) is another area that often requires expert legal guidance from an experienced inheritance lawyer.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our inheritance law expert, Dr. Thomas Bichat, advises clients in Germany and further afield on all matters relating to German inheritance law.

Inheriting a Property in Germany

Inheriting a property in Germany can seem like an enormous benefit, however, heirs should be aware that there can be particular risks involved. Accepting an inheritance is not always acceptable, particularly where there are significant debts involved. Heirs have six weeks to decide on whether they should accept or reject a property, therefore, that time needs to be used carefully. Besides the issue of debts, the property may also have issues, such as that it cannot be used for a purpose you have in mind, restoring the property may cost too much and that the land is not of significant value or is unsuitable for development plans.

Our German inheritance lawyer also advises on matters, such as inheritance tax. Inheritance tax in Germany is another critical matter when inheriting a property, as the inheritance tax to be paid will be based on factors, such as: the property value, the value of the estate, the relationship between the testator and the heir and the number of heirs involved.

Inheritance Tax Law Cases

In the context of inheritance, inheritance law and tax law issues become relevant. Therefore, the lawyers of Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte offer you a comprehensive service in German inheritance and tax law.

Depending on the amount of the inheritance and the degree of relationship of the deceased to the heirs, inheritance tax may be payable under certain circumstances. Our experts in inheritance and tax law will explain any aspects of your specific inheritance case to you. In addition to assisting you with your inheritance tax return and calculating the amount of tax due, our lawyers can support you in inheritance cases involving businesses and real estate.

Our lawyers will also represent you in tax evasion proceedings. Our experts will stand up for your rights and interests to avoid a conviction for tax evasion and thus a fine or imprisonment.

International Inheritance Cases

In our globalised world, with families often spread across many countries, it is not unusual for an inheritance to have international and cross-border elements. Testators may be seeking answers as to how they can leave their assets to their heirs while considering the different countries’ legal requirements. Heirs may have questions on inheritance tax and other conditions when inheriting from a relative abroad. Such questions can appear overwhelming, especially after the death of a loved one in a country far away.

Our German inheritance lawyer provides the expert guidance needed in situations, such as where the heir lives in Germany and has inherited abroad, or they live abroad and have inherited in Germany. The first question in these matters is whether German or foreign inheritance law applies. The states involved and their legal systems are decisive to clarify this question. In some states, a person’s estate is decided based on the principle of nationality or the principle of domicile.

Obtaining Bank Information in the Case of Inheritance

Accessing bank information is vital in inheritance cases. Our inheritance lawyers support our clients who require assistance with inheritance cases in Germany and the need to access bank information. In most cases, a bank only becomes aware of the death when the heirs contact the bank. In principle, the bank is obliged to maintain banking secrecy vis-à-vis the heirs, even in such cases. The bank can wave this obligation if the heirs can identify themselves as such. The heir’s duty is to prove to the bank that they are authorised to obtain information about the deceased’s account. Heirs need to present a certificate of inheritance or a will to the bank to show that they are heirs.

Refusing an Inheritance

In principle, no one is obliged to inherit against their will, and deciding whether an heir should claim their entitlement is a big question. It may be in the heir’s best interest to refuse an inheritance, particularly one where there are large debts included. Inheritance means that the heir receives not only the assets but also the debts and other liabilities of the deceased. In principle, they must also pay these out of their private assets. Refusing an inheritance, therefore, makes sense if the estate is completely over-indebted.

Refusing an inheritance is limited by law however to the first six weeks after becoming aware of the inheritance (§ 1944 BGB). Therefore, in such cases, where this action is even considered, it is vital to receive timely professional legal counsel from a German inheritance lawyer.

The Community of Heirs

The community of heirs is formed automatically by a succession involving several heirs, and it is provided by law under § 2038 German Civil Code – BGB. Under the community of heirs system, the estate automatically becomes their joint property under § 2032 para. 1 BGB and must be administered jointly by all heirs. It is often the result of a statutory succession, i.e. when the testator has not settled the inheritance. However, the situation can also arise if in the will or inheritance contract – the voluntary succession – the estate is not divided among the heirs individually but is allocated to all of them jointly.

The rights and duties of the heirs can often lead to disputes, as heirs may disagree as to how best to settle the estate. Our lawyers will advise you regarding the pre-emptive right of sale, compensation claims, whether rejecting the inheritance is a better decision, the right to partition, and the duties of an heir.