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German Law/Mothers death


My mother (an american citizen) residing in Munich, Germany, owned 2 houses in Germany. She left no will. My sister and I, residing in America, have questions. 1.) Does the German State decide who gets what? 2.) Does her situation fall under German or American law?

In Germany there is no probate proceeding and administration of the estate by state authorities. It is up to the heirs to administer and distribute the estate among themselves. If no settlement can be reached between the heirs, a co-heir can apply for the participation of land by public auction.

Anyway, your sister and you and all the other legal heirs will need to apply for a certificate of inheritance (Erbschein) at the general consulate in order to obtain a transcription of the ownership titles in the land register. Without transcription you will not be able to transfer the properties.

You will also have to report the succession to the German tax authorities within three months and file a German inheritance tax return after that.

Due to the citizenship of your mother the succession is subject to American law. However, not only the inheritance law of the U.S. but also the private international law would apply. It could well be that the respective regulations of American international private law refer back to German inheritance law (renvoi).

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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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