Inheritance Law Firm and Lawyer in Berlin

Lawyer for inheritance law in Berlin

At LSI Berlin we are a Berlin law firm specialising in inheritance. Our inheritance lawyers and attorneys are at your disposal to settle all matters of inheritance law both in Germany and abroad.

A lawyer specialising in inheritance law is called upon to resolve questions and issues relating to an estate, for example. Often the first thing on one’s mind is what one should bequeath, but also in whose hands everything we have worked (hard) to create during our lives should end up. It is therefore natural to want to know what will happen to all the things we hold dear.

It is very common to have questions such as:

  • what happens to someone’s house or business and who is the heir designated by law?
  • Who also has rights?

If you have doubts about inheritance law, contact us and we will solve your case together.

As Inheritance Law Solicitors, we can help you plan your estate, deal with the death of a loved one or deal with an inheritance dispute.

Inheritance law in Germany is a complex area governed by the German Civil Code (BGB).

At the heart of German inheritance law is the principle of ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are respected while protecting the rights of close family members. The law provides clear guidelines for both testamentary succession (where there is a valid will) and intestate succession (where there is no will) to ensure an orderly transfer of assets.

Seeking legal advice from an expert in Inheritance Law will help you to understand your rights and obligations, facilitate the efficient administration of estates and resolve any disputes that may arise. Our services are designed to provide comprehensive assistance, from drafting wills and inheritance contracts to managing probate proceedings and minimising tax liabilities.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to talk about your Inheritance Law needs.

Call the Office (M-F: 9am-6pm)
+49 (0)30 88702382

Contact us via email
[email protected]

We are here to take care of all your legal needs related to Inheritance Law in Germany

Our inheritance law experts are here to support you to secure your family’s future and ensure your wishes are honoured, handle the complexities of probate and protect your inheritance rights and secure your rightful share if you are facing a dispute over an inheritance.

Will Drafting and Planning

We assist you in drafting legally sound wills that accurately reflect your final wishes. You will receive guidance on how to fairly distribute assets, designate executors, and make provisions for minor children and dependents, as well as advice on the best practices for ensuring the will is valid and enforceable, minimising the potential for disputes, and optimising tax efficiency.

Estate Planning

Estate planning services include the structuring and organisation of assets to ensure a smooth transition on death. This includes advice on the establishment of trusts, gifting strategies and other legal mechanisms to protect assets and reduce tax liabilities.

Inheritance Disputes Resolution

We provide mediation and representation in disputes between heirs or between heirs and executors. This includes negotiating settlements, representing clients in court and finding amicable solutions to ensure a fair distribution of the estate.

Intestate Succession

Advising and assisting clients where a deceased person has left no will, ensuring that the estate is distributed in accordance with intestacy laws. This includes identifying legal heirs and facilitating the legal process to transfer assets to the rightful heirs.

International Inheritance Issues

We provide specialist services for clients with cross-border inheritance issues, such as estates with assets in several countries, foreign heirs or dealing with foreign inheritance laws. This includes navigating the EU Succession Regulation and other relevant international treaties and laws.

Business Succession Planning

Helping business owners plan for the transfer of their business interests to heirs or third parties. This includes drafting succession plans, advising on buy-sell agreements and structuring the transition to minimise disruption and tax liabilities.

Other services include reviewing and updating existing estate plans, assisting with the establishment and administration of trusts and foundations, helping to plan and implement lifetime gifts to family members or charities, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and optimising tax benefits.

Inheritance Law FAQs

How can I ensure my will is legally valid in Germany?

To ensure that your will is legally valid, it must be written entirely by hand and signed at the end (holographic will), or it can be notarised. A handwritten will should clearly state the date and place of writing to avoid any doubt as to its validity. A holographic will does not require the presence of witnesses.

A will drawn up and certified by a notary provides greater legal certainty and reduces the risk of challenge.

As a solicitor, you can help to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the will is clear, comprehensive and reflects the testator’s true intentions.

What happens if someone dies without a will in Germany?

If someone dies without a will, the estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestate succession set out in the German Civil Code (BGB). This means that the estate is divided between the deceased’s relatives according to a hierarchy of heirs.

The order of succession starts with the closest relatives, such as spouses and children. If there are no immediate family members, the estate passes to the next closest relatives, such as parents, siblings and their descendants.

The surviving spouse’s share depends on the matrimonial property regime and the existence of other heirs. The purpose of this legal system is to ensure that the deceased’s estate remains within the family.

What inheritance taxes apply in Germany, and how can they be minimised?

Inheritance tax rates in Germany depend on the relationship to the deceased and the value of the estate. Immediate family members, such as spouses and children, enjoy higher exemptions (e.g. €500,000 for spouses, €400,000 for children).

More distant relatives and unrelated individuals face lower exemptions and higher tax rates. The tax rate ranges from 7% to 50%, depending on the amount of the inheritance and the heir’s relationship to the deceased.

Tax planning strategies such as lifetime gifts, trusts and exemptions can help minimise inheritance tax. Proper estate planning with the help of a legal professional will ensure optimal tax efficiency.

What is the difference between a will and an inheritance contract?

A will is a unilateral document in which an individual specifies how their assets are to be distributed on their death. It can be amended or revoked by the testator at any time before death.

In contrast, an inheritance contract is a bilateral agreement between the testator and one or more other parties, such as potential heirs. This contract is binding and cannot easily be changed or revoked without the consent of all parties.

The testamentary contract provides greater security for the beneficiaries as it legally binds the testator to the agreed terms. This can be particularly useful in complex family situations or business succession planning.

Can I disinherit a close family member?

Although you can exclude a close family member from your will, German law gives certain relatives (spouses, children and parents) a compulsory portion of the estate which they can claim if they are disinherited. This share is usually half of what they would have received under intestate succession.

The compulsory portion ensures that close family members receive a portion of the estate even if they are not named in the will. Disinheriting a family member requires careful planning and a clear explanation to minimise the risk of legal challenge.

Legal advice is essential to navigate the complexities of disinheritance and mandatory shares.

What is the role of an executor, and how is one appointed?

An executor administers the estate in accordance with the wishes set out in the will. They carry out tasks such as paying debts, distributing assets and filing necessary legal documents.

An executor can be appointed by the testator in the will. It’s wise to choose someone trustworthy and competent, as the role carries significant responsibilities and legal obligations. In the absence of a named executor, the probate court may appoint one.

Alternatively, a professional executor, such as a solicitor or trust company, can be appointed to ensure impartial and efficient administration of the estate. Properly appointing an executor will help avoid disputes and ensure the smooth administration of the estate.

How can I contest a will if I believe it is invalid?

To contest a will, you must have legal grounds such as lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud or failure to comply with legal formalities.

Lack of capacity means that the testator was not of sound mind when making the will. Undue influence involves coercion or manipulation by someone close to the testator. Fraud involves deception or forgery. Non-compliance includes issues such as an improperly executed will.

To contest a will, you must file a challenge with the probate court.

Our firm can provide legal assistance in gathering evidence, navigating the legal process and presenting a strong case to the court.

What steps should I take immediately after a loved one’s death regarding their estate?

After the death of a loved one, you should obtain a death certificate, locate the will and contact the probate court. Secure the deceased’s assets to prevent unauthorised access or loss. Notify relevant parties such as banks, insurance companies and government agencies.

Begin the process of administering the estate, which involves identifying and valuing assets, paying debts and distributing assets in accordance with the will or intestacy laws.

A solicitor will ensure compliance with legal requirements, deal with tax obligations and resolve any disputes between heirs. Proper estate administration ensures a smooth and orderly settlement of the deceased’s affairs.

What to Know About Inheritance Law in Germany

German inheritance law is a complex area governed by the German Civil Code (BGB).

It outlines the rules and regulations governing the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone planning their estate or dealing with the inheritance process. The following sections provide an in-depth look at the main aspects of German inheritance law.

Legal Heirs and Intestate Succession

In Germany, if a person dies without leaving a will, their estate is distributed according to the rules of intestate succession as set out in the German Civil Code (BGB). The law sets out a strict hierarchy of heirs, starting with the closest relatives of the deceased. Spouses, children and grandchildren are at the top of this hierarchy. If there are no descendants, the estate passes to parents, siblings and more distant relatives.

The surviving spouse has a special status in intestate succession. Their share of the estate depends on the matrimonial property regime and the existence of other heirs. For example, under the community of accrued gains, the spouse is entitled to a quarter of the estate, plus an additional quarter under the matrimonial property regime if there are children. This legal framework ensures that the estate remains within the family, providing support for the deceased’s closest relatives.

Understanding intestacy is crucial for anyone without a will, as it directly affects who will inherit their estate. It’s also important for potential heirs to be aware of their rights under these laws. Legal advice can help individuals navigate these rules and ensure that their estate plans are in line with their wishes.

Wills and Inheritance Contracts

Making a legally valid will is one of the most important steps in estate planning. In Germany, a will can be handwritten (holographic will) or notarised. A handwritten will must be fully written and signed by the testator and should clearly state the date and place of making. A notarised will is drawn up and certified by a notary, which provides greater legal certainty and reduces the risk of challenge.

An inheritance contract, on the other hand, is a binding agreement between the testator and one or more other parties. It cannot be easily changed or revoked without the consent of all the parties involved. It is often used to provide greater certainty for beneficiaries, particularly in complex family situations or business succession planning. The inheritance contract provides a level of certainty that a will cannot, as it legally binds the testator to the agreed terms.

The choice between a will and an inheritance contract depends on individual circumstances and needs. Consultation with a lawyer can help determine the best approach to ensure that one’s final wishes are respected and that the estate is distributed according to one’s wishes.

Mandatory Share (Pflichtteil)

German inheritance law grants certain close family members a compulsory portion of the estate, even if they are disinherited in the will. This compulsory portion ensures that spouses, children and parents receive a portion of the estate. Typically, the mandatory share is half of what the heir would have received under intestate succession.

The purpose of the mandatory share is to protect family members from being unfairly excluded from the inheritance. This right can lead to litigation if a disinherited heir decides to claim their mandatory share. The process involves calculating the value of the estate and determining the rightful share due to the mandatory heirs.

It is important for testators to consider the implications of intestate succession when planning their estate. Disinheriting a close family member requires careful planning and clear documentation to minimise potential conflicts. Legal advice is essential to navigate these complexities and ensure that the estate plan is enforceable and fair.

Inheritance Tax in Germany

Inheritance tax in Germany is based on the value of the estate and the relationship between the deceased and the heir. Immediate family members, such as spouses and children, benefit from higher exemptions (e.g. €500,000 for spouses, €400,000 for children). More distant relatives and unrelated individuals face lower exemptions and higher tax rates, which can range from 7% to 50%.

To minimise inheritance tax, it’s important to plan strategically. This may involve lifetime gifts, the establishment of trusts or the use of exemptions and allowances. Proper planning can significantly reduce the tax burden on heirs and ensure that more of the estate remains for beneficiaries.

Working with a legal professional can help identify the most tax-efficient strategies and ensure compliance with all legal requirements, ultimately protecting the value of the estate for future generations.

Estate Executor

The executor of an estate plays a vital role in ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out in accordance with their will or the rules of intestacy. The executor’s duties include managing the estate’s assets, paying any debts, filing any necessary tax returns and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs.

Appointing a trustworthy and competent executor is crucial as the role carries significant responsibilities and legal obligations. The executor can be a family member, a friend or a professional such as a solicitor or trust company. If no executor is named in the will, the probate court may appoint one to administer the estate.

The role of the executor is fundamental to the smooth running of the estate. They must act in the best interests of the heirs and comply with all legal requirements. Legal advice can help executors to carry out their duties effectively and to resolve any problems that may arise in the process.

Marital Property Regimes

The distribution of an estate to a surviving spouse in Germany depends largely on the matrimonial property regime. The most common regime is the community of accrued gains (Zugewinngemeinschaft), whereby each spouse owns his or her own property, but any gains made during the marriage are shared equally. On death, the surviving spouse is entitled to a quarter of the estate, plus an additional quarter for matrimonial property rights if there are children.

Other arrangements include separate property (Gütertrennung) and community property (Gütergemeinschaft). Under separate property, each spouse retains their own assets and there is no division of profits. Under community of property, all assets are owned jointly and divided equally. The choice of regime affects the distribution of the estate and the surviving spouse’s share.

Couples should choose the regime that best suits their financial situation and estate planning objectives. Legal advice can help navigate these options and ensure that the estate plan reflects their wishes.

Contesting a Will in Germany

Contesting a will in Germany means challenging its validity on legal grounds such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud or failure to comply with legal formalities. Testamentary capacity refers to the testator’s mental capacity to understand the implications of their will. Undue influence occurs when someone applies pressure or manipulation to the testator. Fraud involves deception or forgery, and non-compliance includes issues such as an improperly executed will.

To contest a will, an heir must file a challenge with the probate court. This process requires evidence to support the claim and often involves a trial. A successful challenge can result in the will being invalidated and the estate being distributed in accordance with intestate succession or an earlier valid will.

Legal advice is essential when challenging a will as the process can be complex and contentious.

* The information on this website is for illustrative purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for personal legal advice from a lawyer. Each case is unique, has special circumstances and should be reviewed in detail by a lawyer who is able to review the specific situation.

Get expert legal advice tailored to your situation

Inheritance law is a sensitive matter that requires the legal support of an expert solicitor.

Contact us today to protect your legacy, navigate the complexities of probate and understand your rights to resolve inheritance disputes.

Let’s talk about your legal needs in relation to inheritance law in Germany.

Call the Office (M-F: 9am-6pm)
+49 (0)30 88702382

Contact us via email
[email protected]

Contact us to get support for Inheritance Law in Germany

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+49 (0)30 88702382

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Schlüterstrasse 37, 10629
Unter den Linden 10, 10117