How to Avoid Foreign Probate in Germany

Probate is expensive and involved lengthy waiting periods abroad just as it does in the United States, and most people who inherit foreign assets want to avoid probate. Luckily, if you are in Germany, or live in the United States but own property in Germany, and want to leave some of your assets to someone who lives in another country, such as the United States, you have some legal tools at your disposal that can help you.

The person who leaves behind assets after passing away is referred to as a “testator.” If the testator has taken the proper estate planning measures in Germany, some or all of their assets can be transferred to the person of their choosing after they die. There is no need for a will, no waiting period, and no probate costs.

So how does it work?

The person creating the estate planning uses a type of tool that roughly to “conditional transfer in contemplation of death.” While these have some commonalities with estate planning tools that are familiar in the United States, particularly living trusts, they are not quite the same as testamentary dispositions or lifetime gifts.

Commonly used types of conditional transfers in contemplation of death include:

  • A provision for the benefit of a third party conditional upon the event of death 
  • Power of attorney valid beyond death
  • A transfer of title conditional upon the event of death

Are assets transferred in this way still subject to taxation?

Yes! The person receiving the assets will still be required to pay German inheritance tax. Before releasing assets to anyone in another country, German banks will ask to see an official tax clearance certificate. 

Who can help me if I am navigating an international probate situation, inheriting assets from abroad, or leaving assets to a person in another country in my estate plan?

If you are facing any of these issues, the Graf Legal International Probate team wants to help you! We have extensive experience guiding families through these matters and are eager to share our knowledge and skills with you! Please fill out the intake form on our website or email info@graflegal.com to learn more about how we can help you. We will respond as quickly as possible — please do keep in mind that there is a six-hour difference between Germany and US Eastern Standard time.

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International Probate by Graf Legal

The team at Graf & Partners, LLP offers extensive experience in many areas of international law, putting them in a unique position to help American clients who own property in multiple countries or inherit property from loved ones abroad.

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