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Off topic: Will and inheritance in Germany
Thread poster: Gillian Searl

Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:50
Member (2004)
German to English
Jun 29, 2007

I have a friend who is asking me questions about inheritance and wills in Germany and I wonder if you can help me out because I am not sure of the answers.

It is common in the UK to sign an "enduring power of attorney", which I think corresponds to "Vorsorgevollmacht". If someone is unable to administrate their affairs due to dementia, illness etc. they appoint someone else to do so. E.g. run their bank account, pay their bills. Is "Vorsorgevollmacht" the same and where do you go to write one? a notary?

In the UK if you die without making a will and are married the spouse gets all. Is that the same in Germany? What about any children?

Imagine this situation: There is a British guy married to a German woman, living and working in Germany but he has children and owns property in the UK. Can he write a will that also states what happens to the UK property. What happens if he dies without a will?

Thanks for you help.
Gillian

[Edited at 2007-06-29 06:11]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-06-29 11:13]


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:50
English to German
+ ...
Dying in Germany Jun 29, 2007

Gillian,

My father died earlier this year, and we believed that everything would be settled according to German law (most of his property is in Germany). However, as my father did not have a German passport, German law refers to the law of the person's native country, in our case Croatia. The notary who handled our case, explained that everything - from his last will to the way property is divided between the remaining family members - would be handled according to Croatian law.

In our case this meant that the testament my father had written was useless because it did not conform to Croatian law, and therefore his property was divided differently than he had planned to. The notary explained further that this is not the case for all foreigners living in Germany, and that in some cases German law might be applicable.

It would therefore be a good idea to seek professional help in this particular case.

As for the Vorsorgevollmacht you mention, there has been a hot debate in Germnany recently. Have a look at http://www.patientenverfuegung.de/ , it may already answer most of your questions (browse the "Vorsorgen" menu, there are more pages covering this topic).

HTH.

Sonja


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Leena vom Hofe  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:50
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
"Unter Betreuung stellen" Jun 29, 2007

Hi Gillian,

I think there is some difference between "Betreuung" and "Vorsorgevollmacht" but I am not a 100% sure (I can ask my Mom, she works as a "Betreuerin" here in Germany).

"Vorsorgevollmacht" is something you sign as longs as you are in a state that allows you to decide for yourself. Everyone can do that. Its "Vorsorge". My Granny signed one for me and actually I am responsible for her financial affairs now. But I know that in the worst case we would have to get an "Amtliche Betreuung" (could also be me) because "Vorsorgevollmacht" has no real juridical basis. (The "Sparkasse" did not accept my Granny's regular Vorsorgevollmacht, she had to sign another document and her signature had to be confirmed by a nurse - no notary necessary)

If you really are unable to administrate your affairs (also like drug addicts) you get an "amtliche Betreuung" through the "Amtsgericht" in Germany. That could be a relative or someone like my mother, doing this for money (when there are no relatives for example - sad enough I think!)

I hope that this helps. As for the problem with heritage I don't know... I think that the wife will get everything and the children will only get the "rest" when their mother dies...
But I am not sure...

Maybe someone else can tell you this...


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Divided between spouse and children Jun 29, 2007

Gillian Noameshie wrote:

In the UK if you die without making a will and are married the spouse gets all. Is that the same in Germany? What about any children?



[Edited at 2007-06-29 06:11]


I can't help out much in this topic, but AFAIK the spouse would get half of it and the children would get their shares of the half. So if there are three children, each of them would get a third of the half, i.e. a sixth of the complete heritage. However, if the spouses have written a will, they are able to block this and let the children wait until the last spouse has passed away. Also, without a will, the children can decide on their own that they renounce the heritage (Erbe ausschlagen) so their mum (for example) won't have to give them their shares of the heritage, and she would for instance be able to stay in her home until she passes away. All children however have to agree on this.

This topic is so complex and there's lot to say about Berliner Testament etc. Another important aspect is about half-siblings and step-children, 2nd marriage, adopted children and so on. This is really something for a lawyer.

Erik


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
Get a lawyer Jun 29, 2007

The facts of each case differ and it's too late to address mistakes after the person has died.

Just as we bemoan wannabee translators "encroaching" on our territory, this type of question is best left to a lawyer specialising in this area.



[Edited at 2007-06-29 07:52]


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:50
German to English
Really rather complicated Jun 29, 2007

Gillian Noameshie wrote: It is common in the UK to sign an "enduring power of attorney"


Firstly, this is set to be replaced by a "lasting power of attorney", with more strings attached. Secondly, even now it's not a matter of just signing the PoA. I have one for my mother, for example, and under Scots law it had to be registered with the "Office of the Public Guardian", with witnessed signatures. Only when it was registered with the Office of the Public Guardian did it become legally valid. The legal situation is probably different in England, but not markedly so.

In the UK if you die without making a will and are married the spouse gets all.


Again, only in England. Scots law has a concept similar to "Pflichtteile" known as "legal rights" under which the children are entitled to a (I think) 25% share of the moveable assets (only).

But in almost all other aspects, the differences between "UK" (Scots, England & Wales) law and German inheritance law are pretty substantial, starting with the difference between beneficiaries (UK) and heirs (Germany). And the inheritance tax differences are also substantial (in the UK it's the estate that has the tax liability, in Germany it's the heirs).

Imagine this situation: There is a British guy married to a German woman, living and working in Germany but he has children and owns property in the UK. Can he write a will that also states what happens to the UK property. What happens if he dies without a will?


It's precisely such "international" marriages that can be particularly complicated, especially if there are children from a previous marriage (to a spouse of a different nationality) living in a different country. While it would most likely be considerably more advantageous for "UK" law to apply in your friend's case, I don't think that would necessarily be automatic by any means.

Dying without a will is never a good idea, irrespective of which jurisdiction applies.

I'm afraid that your friend really is going to have to consult a lawyer, and not just the next RA um die Eck'. I consult a medium-sized UK law firm in such issues because they have a Geman desk and specialise in trust and estate matters. Not at all cheap, though, and you tend to get bills along the lines of "To picking up the phone to call you and answer a question from you and realising that we did it already last week".

Robin


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Leena vom Hofe  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:50
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
"gesetzliche Betreuung" Jun 29, 2007

Hi Gillian,

I have just asked my Mom and she reminded me it's called "gesetzliche Betreuung". This is when someone is appointed by the German Amtsgericht. "Vorsorgevollmacht" should also be confirmed by some official authorities because it could be that the Vollmacht will not be accepted in case it is needed.

Hope that helps

Leena


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
German to English
+ ...
Just a few bits Jun 29, 2007

. Is "Vorsorgevollmacht" the same and where do you go to write one? a notary?


In a recent family case, it was the local Amtsgericht who issued the document (albeit a temporary one, with a 3-month limit, because of the particular circumstances). The Rathaus was first port of call.

In the UK if you die without making a will and are married the spouse gets all.


Wasn't (fully) the case - I don't know whether it has changed but siblings also have/had entitlement in the case of intestacy. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3038966.stm

Robin said: I'm afraid that your friend really is going to have to consult a :lawyer, and not just the next RA um die Eck'. I consult a medium-sized UK law firm in such issues because they have a Geman desk and specialise in trust and estate matters.


I agree with Robin (but still worth looking into what Harry recommended in your German posting).

Chris


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