What are the national rules in case of intestate succession (no will has been set up)?

 The German Civil Code (in German the “Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch” or short BGB) covers issues related to inheritance law in Germany. In case the deceased did not leave a will (or the will is invalid for one reason or another) we speak of intestacy.

The law relating to intestacy works with the principle of classes of heirs.

  • In case the deceased has children, grandchildren they are grouped in Class One.
  • Class Two consists of the parents of the deceased and their children.
  • In Class Three the grandparents of the deceased and their children are grouped together.
  • Class Four covers the great grandparents of the deceased and their children respectively.
  • Further classes are set for more distant relatives.

Within Class One the heirs inherit in equal shares. For example if the deceased is survived by 2 children, the said two children will inherit equally. In case the children are dead their children will inherit their shares in equal proportions.

It has to be born in mind that those closer relatives will exclude any other relatives from the succession.

German law also provides a special regime for the surviving spouse (priority principle). The spouse's share depends nevertheless on the matrimonial property regime under which the couple lived together (either community of surplus or separation of property).

In case the deceased is survived by members of Class One the surviving spouse will inherit ¼ plus an additional ¼ (in case of the community of surplus regime) being in total ½ of the estate (while the children will share the other half). However, if the deceased is survived only by parents (or members of class two) the spouse will inherit ¾ of the estate. In any other case (Class 3 or 4 are involved) the spouse will inherit the whole estate.

In case the deceased is not survived by any relative or spouse the state shall be the sole beneficiary of the estate.

What are the national forced heirship rules, if any existing?

A remark shall be made that even in the case a will is made by the deceased, his spouse or children will still inherit a compulsory share of the estate (except particular conditions are met). This is called legitime (Pflichtteil) and the heirs claim is calculated with 50% of the share set out by the law of intestacy. So in case the deceased is survived by spouse and two children the usual calculation would be ½ spouse and ¼ for each child. If however the deceased made a will excluding one child, then that particular child can claim half the usual amount meaning ⅛ as statutory heir; save in the circumstances where the will specifically provides that a named person shall not derive any benefit from the estate and the deceased has provide a legitimate reason.

What are the national formal requirements when setting up a will (holographic will, will confirmed by witnesses, will confirmed by a notary public)?

The deceased is able to set up a will in two different ways, either a public will made in front of a notary public or a holographic will which is physically handwritten by the deceased.

The public will is prepared and sworn to in front of a notary public and for his safekeeping. This will need not to be physically written by the deceased however an oral transmission is not possible.

The holographic (or handwritten) will requires the signature of the deceased together with the time and place stated of when the will was handwritten. The handwriting is necessary, thus no mechanical means can be used, even though the deceased has signed by hand his signature, time and place at the end of the document.

Is inheritance and/or gift tax in place or abolished?

German law does not impose an estate tax but instead an inheritance tax which will apply on each individual heir (or beneficiary) of the estate.

The inheritance tax law includes several allowances and exemptions as well as tax tables and inheritance tax rates will apply.

If inheritance tax and/or gift tax is in place please specify the percentages of tax respectively the calculation of tax!

The tax table for the rate is as follows:

≤ 75.00071530
≤ 300.000112030
≤ 600.000152530
≤ 6.000.000193030
≤ 13.000.000233550
≤ 26.000.000274050
> 26.000.000304350

There are also exemptions available.

HeirsExemption in €
grandchildren and great grandchildren200.000
other beneficiaries20.000

The same classifications and tax rates are applicable to German gift tax. However there are a few special rules on life time gifts.


This information was compiled by advokatfirma | meyer.