International Inheritance Laws

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The inhabitants of Germany can make wills. The age of testamentary capacity in Germany is sixteen years old. A minor can make a will upon turning sixteen years old and does not need the consent of their legal representative. However, a minor cannot make a holographic will.

Germany has two forms of regular wills that a testator can choose between the public testament and the holographic testament. The holographic testament does not require an attorney. If German inheritance law applies the presence, attestation, or signature of a witness is not necessary. To make the will valid it must be in the testator’s own handwriting and signature. A will that has been written on a typewriter or computer is not considered handwritten regardless if the testator signed it. The signature of the testator must be made following the end of the text and must be signed in person by the testator. A signature on an envelope containing a testament may only be valid if the letter was closed but it still could be considered void. The signature should contain the first name and surname of the testator. If the testator fails to sign appropriately the testament is still valid if the identity of the testator can be determined without doubt on the grounds of the signature and assumed the testator had serious intention to make a will. The testator should state the time and the place where the will was made. Although, if the testator fails to do that the testament is still valid if the time and place can be determined otherwise. The public testament is also known as the notarial will. This type of will is handed over in written form for safekeeping by a public notary. There is no legally binding requirement for the will to be physically written by the deceased. The public notary can then compose the wording of the will. The oral transmission of a will to a public notary is not valid. The public notary must confirm to the testator that the will is unambiguous and legally correct. This type of will can be costly because it depends on the size of the estate and amount of assets the deceased has.

In Germany, there is no legal requirement to have a last will or testamentary will which has been officially witnessed by a legal body. However, to avoid confusion in the passing on of property it would be in the best interest of a person to make a will. The law of governing wills and intestate succession in Germany is found in the German Civil Code. Inheritance law is federal law. Regardless of what state of Germany the decedent was domiciled or where in Germany the decedent’s assets are located the German law is applicable. Without a will, property will be inherited by the decedent’s legal heirs. German intestacy laws follow a distribution scheme with several classes of heirs who will take the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse or the remaining part of the estate which does not go to the surviving spouse if descendant was married at the time of death. The intestate share of the surviving spouse depends on whether the decedent is survived by children, parents, siblings, or grandparents. Under German estate and inheritance laws heirs become owners of all assets and debtors of all obligations in the moment of death, unless specifically ordered by the decedent. No personal representative will be appointed and the estate is not subject to administration. German law defines the legal line of succession with regards to inheritance as being the spouse and the next of kin. Next of kin is defined and ranked in the following order; spouse, children of the decedent, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nephews, and nieces. Should none of these heirs be found then the next of kin is the offspring or next of kin of the grandparents of the deceased. However, under German law the testator cannot entirely disinherit his spouse or children unless specific circumstances are present and strict requirements are met. In most cases, a disinherited child, spouse, or parent will still be able to claim a compulsory share of the estate.

There are many differences between Germany and New York inheritance law. Such as the types of wills that are considered valid, the requirements to create a will, and although we both use a distribution schemes they have a different criteria.

WF Frank & Partner LLP is an international law firm based in Germany that specializes in cross border estate matters including; probate law, trust law, tax law and estate planning.

This is a funeral urn that originated from Rhineland, Germany. It is made of glass and shaped as an amphora which is a jar with two handles and a narrow neck. It can be dated back to the 3-4 century. This urn and other burial objects helps to depict the culture of the people who occupied the Rhineland during that time. Often these urns were located on burial sites that were next to important routes.

I thought this particular urn looks beautiful because of the color and the fact that it is made out of glass. The fact that it is shaped as an amphora makes it seem a little less like a morbid urn. It’s almost a shame that similar ones are at burial sites.


Work Cited

Holger Siegwart, Intestate Distribution Under German Law – Who Inherits If Someone Dies Without a Will?, Ezine Articles, September 9, 2010,—Who-Inherits-If-Someone-Dies-Without-a-Will?&id=7509830

Jan-Hendrik Frank, The making and revocation of a will in Germany, WF, 2009,

Kanzlei am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz ,Christian Regnery, Rechtsanwalt, Wills in Germany, Angloinfo,