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German Law/Inheritance law


German-in-laws had joint testament leaving assets to spouse and subsequently to both daughters. Father died in 2002. Mother died in October, 2012 having added codicil making second daughter sole heir. My wife, first daughter, living in UK - all others were/is domiciled in Germany. Mother had dual nationality and account in Coutts UK. Younger daughter, with power of attorney, has emptied German account and left only debts. English will leaves everything (considerable amount)to second daughter. Want to renounce German will. Understand we have 6 months to do so. When does the 6 months clock start ticking. We received letter from court telling us of codicil in November, 2012.

The period for the waiver of an inheritance starts as soon as one receives knowledge on the inheritance. However, I do not think that you meant this: Why should one waive an inheritance which she is not supposed to get anyway? Maybe it would be advisable to have checked if your wife has become an heir before thinking of renouncing the inheritance.

The contest of a will is not bound to any statute of limitation. However, in Germany there is no particular proceeding for this. The validity of a will is subject to review in court proceedings regarding the issuance of a certificate of inheritance or a law suit.

Furthermore, I would like to direct your attention to the following points:

A power of attorney entitles someone to take something but not to keep it. So, money that was withdrawn can be claimed back by the proper owner.

According to German law, joint wills often become binding for the surviving spouse after the other has passed away so that he/ she cannot alter the testamentary dispositions anymore.

Usually, and unless expressed otherwise wills cover the whole estate. So you should have checked closely the relation interdependency that several wills might have.  

If your wife waives the inheritance (if any) there would remain the question who would be in charge of the inheritance to pay out the forced share.  

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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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