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German Law/german inheritance


QUESTION: Our son, a US citizen, living in germany for 25 years.  He passed away in Jan. of this year, having been married to a russian lady for 10 months not living in germany at the time of death.  What is the normal split of the assets & liabilities of the estate in this instance. Also, a small life insurance policy with the mother listed as the sole beneficiary was found. Is this excluded from the assets & is the wife entitled to any portion? To date the wife does not have a permanent german visa

Thank you for your consideration & time.

ANSWER: Visa, citizenship and residence of the wife are irrelevant in regard to the legal situation. Due to the  last residence of your son in Germany German national inheritance law would apply, i.e. the wife is entitled one half and the parents one quarter each (I assume that the deceased has not left behind any children). Furthermore, the matrimonial regime under which your son and his wife lived has to be settled. Which one this is would depend on where the couple had lived at the time they married and if they have made a prenuptial agreement. There is no probate in Germany. So the heirs have to loo after and decide on the distribution of the estate by themselves. As far as the insurance is concerned: Unless the beneficiary entitlement is revoked by the heirs it does not belong to the estate. So, it should be cashed in quickly.

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QUESTION: Appreciate your quick answer.  I should have been more explicit.  The couple was married in Montenegro, so does this have a bearing on the division of estate?   Also, was told by representative of wife that she is contending that she is due a portion of the life insurance policy(so-called statutory share compensation/"pflichteilserganzuangsanspruch" pursuant to Sec. 2325 of German Civil Code) Is this true?  We think the premiums have been paid over a long length of time.        Thank you for helping us in this complicated matter.

In general, there is no compulsory share unless the wife has been disinherited in a will. However, it may be different if the assets forming the estate are of a low value. Concerning the matrimonial regime not the place of marriage but the residences of the spouses at this time is the connecting factor. Place of marriage and residence need not to be the same. Montenegro provides a community of property in regard to assets acquired during the marriage.

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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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