Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Certificate of Inheritance Definition:

A formal legal probate document issued in Germany.

Writing in the International Bar Journal (1979), Dr. Pollzein Goetz described the probate process in Germany circa 1974, proposed that probate, in Germany, "is initiated by an Antrag (petition) of the Antragsteller (petitioner) to the Probate Court to issue an Erbschein (certificate of inheritance)."

Dr. Goetz' article relied heavily on statements of law then, and still, found in the German Civil Code (known in Germany by the abbreviation "BGB"):

Of the erbschein (certificate of inheritance) , Dr. Goetz added:

"... the Erbschein (certificate of inheritance) (is) a document issued by the Probate Court determining the heirs of the decedent and their proportionate share in the estate.

"The Erbschein is presumed to be correct. It is rebuttable evidence for the fact that the person determined is the heir of the decedent. It is the duty of the Probate Court to revoke the Erbschein if it finds out that the Erbschein is incorrect.

"The Erbschein therefore is not res judicata. It does not bind the Prozessgeritht (probate or estate law court in Germany)."

In the official English language translation, 2011, of the German Civil Code (BGB), these principles of law appear to continue as to German probate law. At §2353, 2359, 2361 and 2365 of the German Civil Code:

"The probate court must issue to the heir on application a certificate concerning his right of succession, and, if he is entitled only to a share of the inheritance, concerning the size of his share (certificate of inheritance)....

"The probate court must issue to the heir on application a certificate concerning his right of succession, and, if he is entitled only to a share of the inheritance, concerning the size of his share (certificate of inheritance)....

"It is presumed that the person who is named as heir in the certificate of inheritance has the right of succession stated in the certificate, and that he is not restricted by any directions other than those stated."

There are several other helpful descriptions of the certificate of inheritance such as this by the Embassy and Consulate services of the Government of Germany:

"In Germany, the heir proves his/her legal right by a Certificate of Inheritance which is issued by the competent German probate court upon notarized application. It is normally required by banks or land register if the inheritance includes real estate or bank account(s) in Germany."1

References:

  • Bundesministerium der Justiz and für Verbraucherschultz, German Civil Code (BGB), English language translation, including amendments to July 27, 2011, retrieved by Duhaime.org from the Internet on 2014-02-22 from http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_bgb/.
  • NOTE 1: retrieved from the Internet on 2014-02-22 from http://www.canada.diplo.de/Vertretung/kanada/en/02/life-events/inheritance.html ("Inheritance Matters: Estate in Germany" (sic) which included "How to obtain a Certificate of Inheritance".
  • Pollzien, Goetz, International Estate Litigation in German Courts, 10 Intl. B. J. 7 (1974). At endnote #1, Dr. Goetz added: "The final result of probate proceedings is a rebuttable document confirming that the person named in the Erbschein as the heir of the decedent."

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