German Inheritance Certificate
Ausschlagung einer Erbschaft, © Colourbox
According to German law, the estate located in Germany of a decedent underlies the principle of 'universal succession,' meaning that the heirs become owners of the decedent's estate upon his death. Succession is determined either by law or by disposition in contemplation of death.
However, heirs have to prove their title of succession by a certificate of inheritance („Erbschein“) which is required for the heir(s) to dispose of real estate or bank assets. It is issued by a German surrogate's court („Nachlassgericht“). This court is usually located at the last residence of the decedent or, if he had no residence in Germany, it is determined by the location of assets of the estate.
For the issuance of the Erbschein, it is mandatory that at least one of the heirs applies for the certificate by giving an affidavit/declaration in lieu of oath. This application may be filed with the Nachlassgericht directly (if there are heirs in Germany), a German „Notar“ (notary) or through the German Missions (here the Embassy) abroad. The applicant usually applies in the name and on behalf of all heirs. He/she does not need a power of attorney to apply in their names.
How to obtain a Certificate of Inheritance
1. Here we offer a questionnaire to download, which is used to prepare an application for a certificate of inheritance. Please print out the questionnaire and fill it out as completely as possible. We recommend to enclose copies of all documents proving the right to inherit (e. g. last will, letters testamentary, death certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.).
2. The Embassy will prepare the application document and contact the applicant as soon as the application is drafted to set up an appointment for the applicant to appear at the Embassy and to sign the document in due form. As German is the official language in Germany, the text of the application will be put forward only in German. If the applicant does not understand German, the consular agent will explain the contents of the paper to the applicant and translate it orally. If he/she wants to have an English translation of the application, the applicant will be responsible for all costs incurred by a translation. We recommend that the applicant shows all the original documents of which copies were provided with the questionnaire during this appointment. The German Mission will notarize the copies, so the Nachlassgericht in Germany receives a complete application with the pertinent documents enclosed.
The Embassy will charge a fee for the preparation of the application including the affidavit amounting 299,18 EUR. Fees for the certification itself costs 155,88 EUR. The fee is payable in cash (equivalent in GHS according to the daily exchange rate).
3. The applicant will receive the original and a first certified copy of the application. One of them has to be sent to the competent Nachlassgericht (Inheritance court) or the applicant's representative in Germany who will then forward it to the Nachlassgericht.
4. After having received the application, the Nachlassgericht will issue the certificate of inheritance and forward it to the person named as recipient in the application.
Fees that have to be paid at the Nachlassgericht are based on the value of the estate. The applicant is required to provide detailed information about the value of the estate in Germany. (Please contact the land register ('Grundbuchamt') in Germany or your lawyer for further details of the value of real property.)
Renouncing an inheritance
Under German law, an heir can declare the renouncement of an inheritance by declaration to the competent German Probate Court within six weeks – or if the heir is outside of Germany within six months – of becoming aware of the inheritance. The declaration must be submitted at least in publicly certified form. Parents who act as legal guardians of their minor children must both declare their child's waiver of inheritance. The declaration of renouncement can be made in front of the consular officer of the embassy. A Fee of EUR 56.43 at the current daily exchange rate in GHS will be charged for the renounciation of an inheritance.