Germany has forced heirship laws, but if the deceased died domiciled in the UK, owning assets such as shares or bank accounts in Germany then the following is one of the more usual procedures:
Certificates of Inheritance and Certificates of Executorship can be organised through the German Embassy or any of its various Consular offices in the UK. The main offices are London and Edinburgh. The London address is: 23 Belgrave Square, London SW1 8PZ.
The Embassy will organise almost everything, we just have to go through the correct procedures.
The First Steps
The first thing to do is obtain the Questionnaire from the Embassy and complete the same, and return it to the Consulate which will then prepare the Application which is a Declaration in Lieu of an Oath, to the German Probate Court.
We will send you the Questionnaire for you to please complete and return to ourselves for further processing.
The Application will have to be signed by the Executor if the deceased left a Will, and in the case of Intestacy, by the Beneficiary entitled to the assets concerned. If there are several different Beneficiaries, then the Beneficiary entitled to the remainder of the Estate will be signatory to the Application. Sometimes, even when the deceased left a Will, it will be the appropriate Beneficiary that will sign the application. In any event, the signature will have to be notarised at the Consulate’s offices. This means that the signatory will have to produce his or her passport for identification purposes. Notarisations by an English notary are NOT acceptable, as he is not a German Court Official.
An appointment has to be made with the Embassy for the notarisation to take place, and this is organised when the Application and all of the documents needed are in order.
If the Application is signed by the Executor, the document issued by the German Probate court will be called the Certificate of Executorship; and if the Application is signed by anyone else, the document issued by the German Probate court will be called the Certificate of Inheritance. It is the heirs of the estate that apply for a Certificate of Inheritance, and the executors apply for a Certificate of Executorship.
Please note that it t is a criminal offence to swear a false affidavit deliberately or out of negligence.
The fee payable to the German Consulate depends on the value of the Estate in Germany, and for an estate of about 50,000 Euros, the fee will be approximately £125.
In order to complete the Questionnaire, the questions are standard formal questions to enable the Application to be prepared, and therefore some of them may not be applicable to your particular case, but please answer as many questions as possible.
The Documents Needed
In order to prepare the Application, the Consulate will also need:
(a) Copy of the Will;
(b) Copy of the English Grant;
(c) Copy Death Certificate (the green coloured version);
(d) If necessary, copies of the birth and marriage certificates of the Beneficiaries.
(e) Proof of Citizenship of the deceased, such as a copy of the deceased’s passport.
(f) The other documents (as may be relevant) as set out below:
(i) All wills and testamentary dispositions of the deceased; all
court orders and other documents from past or present court proceedings relating to the estate; all documents issued by non-German probate or other public authorities relating to the estate, including Probate of the Will or Letters of Administration.
(ii) The deceased’s death certificate (see above).
(iii) If you are the deceased’s spouse, child, or other relative, documentary evidence of your relationship to the deceased. Appropriate documents for this purpose are:
- a) Marriage certificate;
- b) Birth certificate, certificate of parentage, or officially certified copies from the “family book”;
- c) If the deceased’s spouse or other relatives (usually children) who would have had a statutory claim on the estate if they had survived the deceased, but who died before the deceased, then the relevant death certificates are needed;
- d) If any of the statutory heirs (see c) above – usually surviving spouse and children) concluded a prior notarised agreement with the deceased waiving their claim on the estate, then the relevant agreement or a statement of where it is currently deposited is needed;
- e) If any of the heirs under the will or statutory heirs where the deceased died without leaving a Will, has since the deceased’s death formally disclaimed their share in the estate, a statement of where the relevant document is currently deposited is needed;
If applicable, please also submit copies of any letters from solicitors, notaries public or public authorities (German or non-German) relating to the estate – this will include such items as share certificates, letters from registrars confirming the shareholdings; bank statements; pension and insurance policies and claims; valuations on personal items such as antiques.
Photocopies of these documents will usually be sufficient to enable the Application to be prepared, although the original documents will have to be produced at the time when you attend the German Embassy to sign the Application and have the same notarised by the Embassy.
The German Probate Court
Once the Application has been completed and notarised, the Application is forwarded by the German Embassy to the German Probate Court for processing. Once any queries have been answered, the German Probate Court will issue the Certificate of Executorship (or of Inheritance, as the case may be).
As a guide, the Court process will usually take about 3 months to complete.
A court fee is payable, and again this depends on the value of the Estate in Germany, and for an estate of about 50,000 Euros, the fee will also be approximately £125.