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German Law/German Inheritance Laws,Pflichtteil and how it could affect our Uk property


QUESTION: My husband and I are about to purchase a house, in joint names in the UK. My husband is German and has 2 children from a previous marriage. I am British. We made a will  a year ago, when we were living in Austria, which doesn`t specify what happens in case of property as at the time we had none.We have stipulated that the children will get their share of money , furniture etc. once both of us are dead and not before. Although I have a good relationship with my step children I am worried that if my husband predeceases me the children could be within their rights to demand their share of pflichtteil immediately. Is there a way we could stop this happening until both of us are dead as I do not want to be forced to sell my home in my old age. Would it be possible to put the house soley in my name to avoid this potential problem and write a codecil to our will that on my death the children then inherit their rightful share.Or alternatively write a codecil, keeping the house in joint names but stipulating the children inherit, only after we both are dead,
My husband thinks the children will never demand this but I have seen it happen with other friends !   Thank you.

ANSWER: Just a few ideas here to illustrate your case from a legal point of view:

1. Under current law German international inheritance law accepts the lex situs stipulated by other national laws. This means that a house in England would be subject to British rules of succession law. This law will change in 2015 when the EU Succession Regulation stipulating the residence as the only factor for determining the applicable inheritance law.

2. German laws regarding the Pflichtteil provide in § 2331 a o the German Civil Code that the heir can demand a deferral of payment if an immediate payment would impose an unreasonable hardship on the heir.

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QUESTION: So am I right in thinking then that there is no advantage as such in putting the UK  property only in my name rather than in our joint names ?
Will it be a problem that we have a will drawn up in Austria and then a codecil alongside that, regarding the house, drawn up in England ?
We are no longer resident in Austria having moved to France for 3 years.

As of 2015, French law would apply if your husband lives there at the time of his death. French law stipulates a far reaching droits rèservataires for the children. However, since the UK has not joined the EU Succession Regulation the British will probably apply their own regulations in regard to British immovable property and neglect the French legal situation completely. Working with a legal instrument from Austria in this situation is of no good because since your husband is a German national Austrian law would not be applicable even if your husband makes such choice of law in his will.  

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Henning Haarhaus


I can answer questions in English, German and French. Practice in inheritance law, tax, labour and contract law for private clients. Services also rendered in the fields of business & commercial law; e.g. business organizations, contracts, debt collections, leasing law. Representing clients all over Germany. NO CONSULTANCY ON FAMILY AND IMMIGRATION LAW.


Working since 1999 in the forenamed fields. Henning Haarhaus` experience includes services in the legal department of Roedl & partner, the biggest tax consultancy firm of German origin. Appointed Bar Certified Tax Law Practioner in 2007.

Bar Association of Berlin, KIWANIS


German licensed lawyer and bar certified tax specialist

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