German-Canadian Probate and Inheritance Lawyers

Legal Solutions Made in Germany

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German-Canadian Probate and Inheritance Lawyers

Legal Solutions Made in Germany

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our German inheritance law specialists are here to support clients on all matters concerning German-Canadian inheritance cases. Such cases include those involving Canadians who have German assets and need to consider them during estate planning, Canadians with an interest in German business assets, whether for estate planning or inheriting reasons, Canadians who have inherited German property and Canadian executors of estates that include property (or properties) in Germany.

If you require the advice of our German inheritance lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact our team directly.

Inheritance Law Services
for Testators

If you seek to design your will or create an inheritance contract and your estate is located in Germany and Canada or your heir is in Canada. At Schlun & Elseven, our team is ready to advise you regarding estate planning and the options available to you.

Inheritance Law Services
for Heirs

Services for Canadian heirs or heirs based in Canada who have inherited property or assets in Germany, and for potential heirs who require further information regarding inheriting in Germany.

Differences between the German and Canadian Legal Systems

The legal systems in Germany and Canada are very different, and such differences can have an enormous impact on the legal matter. Whereas Canada is a federal state composed of ten provinces and three territories, Germany consists of sixteen federal states. The provinces in Canada have significant legislative powers regarding civil law issues within their territory. It is even more complicated as while most of Canada follows a common law system, similar to Anglo-American common law, Quebec follows a civil law system. Germany is a civil law jurisdiction with far more limited divergences in the law between different parts of the country.

Determining which jurisdiction applies is crucial to the resolving of the case. The Canadian and German legal systems distinguish between movable and immovable assets and view that in the case of immovable assets, the property’s location is decisive, whereby the legislation of the state where the property is located is applied. However, for movable inherited assets, the law of the location of the deceased’s last domicile plays the most important role.

The differences between the jurisdictions comes into account in matters relating to inheritance and estate tax law, intestate succession and designing wills. Suppose you have inherited property or assets in Germany or plan to leave German assets to a Canadian heir. In that case, our lawyers can advise you on all matters relating to German inheritance law. Similarly, if you have inherited Canadian assets but are based in Germany, our team can ensure that you receive the required legal support, either from us or via Canadian lawyers we can recommend.

Taking action alone in such complex situations can result in deadlock situations whereby the whole process is slowed down for lengthy periods. Misunderstandings of the law or legal system can have severe consequences. Consulting with our lawyers from the start will ensure that your case is in safe hands.

Our Legal Services for Testators

Estate Planning and Our Expertise for Testators

Estate planning is often delayed and even neglected, leaving open the possibility of intestate succession. We outline the risks involved with intestate succession below, and it is clear that intestate succession is made even more complex when properties and assets cross borders.

Those who possess business assets in Germany and Canada need to strongly consider protecting them with a succession plan in case the worst happens. It is not uncommon for businesses to face significant legal and financial challenges due to a lack of planning. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our full-service model allows our lawyers to advise you on the inheritance and corporate law aspects of business succession planning. Our team will carefully analyse your situation and determine methods of transferring shares, prepare succession regulations in partnership agreements, and generally ensure that the company will be in the right hands in the event of succession.

For private assets, our team provides our clients with essential tools for settling the estate and the disposition of property upon death. We advise on the different forms of wills and whether an inheritance contract (Erbvertrag) is more suitable for your case. We advise on common pitfalls that make succession matters more complex for future heirs and show clients what actions should be considered in cases involving cross-border assets.

Moreover, our legal team advises on “anticipated succession” and giving gifts to future heirs. Anticipated succession involves transferring assets to an heir during their lifetime, which can be attractive for tax reasons. However, legal professionals must carefully examine how anticipated succession and gifts will apply in a particular case, especially if the heir lives abroad.

Furthermore, our lawyers will outline the vital aspects of inheritance and estate tax that your heirs will need to be made aware of and actions they can take regarding them.

Intestate Succession

Intestate succession under German law is legislated under § 1931 BGB and it applies where no will has been created; the will does not fulfil German law requirements or where assets are excluded from the will. Carefully drafting wills or inheritance contracts ensure that intestate succession is avoided, and allow the testator control over their assets and estate.

Under intestate succession, the deceased’s spouse receives their share of the estate first. Their claim is determined by the surviving relatives of the deceased. If they have surviving children (or grandchildren, should the children be predeceased), the spouse will receive 25% of the estate. If the deceased has surviving parents, siblings or grandparents, the spouse gets 50% of the estate. However, if any of the named relatives do not survive the deceased, the spouse will receive 100% of the deceased’s legacy.

Family claims are determined by their “class” within the inheritance order. Any beneficiaries of a higher class exclude any potential beneficiary of the next class (§ 1930 BGB). Therefore, if a successor is in Class one, they receive the inheritance instead of sharing it with those in classes two and three.

If a person dies in Canada without leaving a will the situation depends on where in Canada they were resident. Each of the territories and provinces provide varying outcomes regarding the asset division, so whereas in Alberta if the deceased has a spouse and child/children and those children also belong to your spouse, 100% of your estate goes to your spouse, in Quebec your spouse gets 1/3 of your estate and the remaining 2/3 is divided equally between your children. Therefore, the process is quite complex and very much based on where the individual resides.

Intestate succession in Canada is also a generally lengthy process, that will cost surviving loved lots significant time, money and effort to resolve. Delays often occur as the courts need to appoint an administrator for the deceased’s estate. The courts also decide on a guardian for young children in cases where they are left without a surviving parent. Without a will, the deceased has no power over this decision.

Whether in Canada or in Germany, carefully drafting a will is strongly advisable.

Our Services for Heirs:

Inheriting in Germany and Canada: Our Expertise for Heirs

If you have or expect to inherit property or other assets based in Germany, our lawyers are here to support you. Our team can guide you through the complexities of German inheritance law and outline all legal requirements regarding the “community of heirs” (“die Erbengemeinschaft”), the inheritance certificate (“der Erbschein”) and the compulsory share of the inheritance (“das Pflichtteil”). It is not uncommon that an heir may feel overwhelmed by what is involved with inheritance, especially if they live in another country, such as Canada. Rejecting an inheritance may be in their best interest.

For example, inheriting a property in Germany may seem beneficial, but the risks involved can significantly complicate the matter. Such hazards include that there are debts linked to the property, it may be unsuitable for the purpose you have in mind, the land is not of significant value or restoring the property may be costly. Our lawyers based in Germany can provide clear guidance on steps that can be taken to reject an inheritance if this action is in your best interests. However, rejecting an inheritance often involves ensuring that specific deadlines are met, and therefore it is advisable to act swiftly in contacting our team.

However, should you accept the inheritance as an heir, our lawyers will provide expert assistance in guiding you through that process. Our lawyers will advise you on the requirements expected of you as an heir under German law and assist you in obtaining the necessary files and documents.

Under German inheritance law, the estate (the whole of the estate or part of it) transfers to the heir or heirs, as outlined under § 1922 (1) BGB (German Civil Code). A “community of heirs” is automatically formed by a succession involving several heirs, outlined under § 2038. 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. Such an inheritance can arise in cases where the deceased did not leave a will (died intestate) or where they left the property to several people. This arrangement can be particularly complex for heirs abroad, and legal advice is often necessary.

If you are based in Germany and have inherited property and assets in Canada, our lawyers can provide clear insights into what is involved with inheriting abroad and how inheritance taxes may impact you.