German Law/Inheritance


I am a German living in the US for many years.  My mother (residing in Germany) passed away 1 1/2 years ago.  My only sibling is the named Executor in my mother's will.  I have heard nothing from him regarding the disposition of her assets (residential home, personal affects, etc.)  Is there a time limit for him to begin the process of administering the estate and do I need to file anything with the German court to ensure they are aware of my existence?  As a 50% heir, what are my responsibilities and are there time limits that I need to be aware of?
Thank you for your time and assistance.
Best regards,

The executor is obliged to set up an estate inventory without undue delay. He also has to render account on his activities regularly. If he fails to do so you can apply for his dismissal by the court. I would also inform the court on your existence and ask if they have issued certificates of inheritance (Erbschein) and loetters testamentary legitimating (Testaméntsvollstreckerzeugnis) the position of the executor already. And most important: The court is the only competent authority to opne a will. Any original has to be dilivered there. The fact that you have not heard from the court would mean that they are not aware of the testate succession. Finally, it could be that either the wording of the will does not apply the appointment of your brother as executor although you might have understood it this way or that the brother has not acceppted this duty. If not, it would be up to you bot to administrate and distribute the estate. There is no probate in Germany and thus no state appointed administrator involved. So it would be wise to ask him about this too.

As heir of an individual who deceased in Germany you are liable for inheritance taxes. The returns have to be filed by the executor or if not existent by the respective heir. Liabilities have to be paid and contracts - such as lease contracts have to be terminated. Unless the community of heirs is dissolved, i.e. the assets forming the estate have not been distributed among the heirs the liabilities are restricted to the estate.  

German Law

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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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