German Law/Inheritance


My brother passed away in Germany. He was a South African citizen who has a residence in Germany & lived there for the last 10 years.
He was married to a German Citizen. (Married in South Africa)

His wife has informed us that the inheritance only comprises of assets (movable property) in Germany.

How can this be? My brother had a car & property was bought during the marriage.
Who ultimately decides if South African or German property law applies?
Please advise us what we can do? We do not live in Germany.

German courts apply the inheritance laws of the jurisdiction the deceased had been a citizen of, i.e. South African law including not only th inheritance law but also the rules of private international law.

For South Africa to my knowledge the last domicile of the deceased is the main connecting factor for the determination of the applicable inheritance laws. Maybe your brother has established a domicile of choice here in the last ten years if he had never wished to return to South Africa. Then, German law would accept such renvoi by South African law and thus the whole estate would be governed by German law.

Furthermore, in regard to real estate South African law always refers to the laws of the jurisdiction where the land is located. German international private inheritance law would also accept such renvoi and apply German inheritance law in regard to land located here irrespective of the domicile of the deceased.

Cars are counted as movable assets.  

German Law

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

©2017 All rights reserved.