German Law/Inheritance for US Americans in Germany
QUESTION: My Wife and I are Both U.S. Citizens and we own a home (Joint)in Germany. I have a Daughter (from my previous marriage) that is a German citizen. If I die before my wife, I want her to be able to stay in the home in Germany and not have to sell it to pay off an inheritance to my daughter. Can I put the house just in my Wife’s name to prevent Daughter from claiming a share under Germany law?
ANSWER: Hello Larry,
you are lucky in a way because the forced heirship of the German law would not apply to you. Germany applies the estate law of the country of the deceased. As both you and your wife are US citizens, Germany would apply US law or rather the state law of your respective home state.
You are therefore free to set up any will that is legal under your home state's law. As fas as I am aware, only Louisiana has a system of forced heirship in place, a remnant of the French Code Civil.
If you are nonetheless curious about German inheritance law, please have a look at my FAQ: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/faq-inheritance-germany/
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My understanding was that German law Always applied to unmovable or stationary objects like a house?
Art. 25 II EGBGB allows you to choose German law for real estate in Germany, but this is an option that you have and that you must choose explicitly if you wish to do so. However, I don't see what the benefit of doing so would be if you are a citizen of a country that gives you a lot of leeway in what you put into your last will (like the USA).
(Question no. 1 of my FAQ on German inheritance law addresses this: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/faq-inheritance-germany/
Now, it might be that your US state law says that the law of the jurisdiction in which the real estate lies applies, but you would need to consult with a lawyer from your home state about that.