07. Jul 16

Inheriting and bequeathing under EU succession regulation

Enjoying one’s twilight years abroad is a dream that an increasing number of Germans are pursuing. However, it is important to bear in mind that this may affect the distribution of one’s estate.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: More and more Germans are spending their retirement abroad, with more than 220,000 Germans now spending their sunset years in a foreign country. Wirtschaftswoche reported on its website that this represents a 1.7 per cent increase when compared to the previous year. What many fail to consider is that moving the centre of one’s life abroad has implications for succession law. The EU regulation on succession law (Regulation (EU) No 650/2012) has been in force since August of last year. According to this, it is the succession law of the country in which the testator was last habitually resident that applies in inheritance cases. Citizenship has been replaced by residency as the guiding principle of international succession law.

This is meant to prevent disputes from arising regarding which country’s succession law should apply in the event of death. That being said, German citizens whose main place of residence is located in a foreign country within the EU ought to be mindful of the fact that there are sometimes significant differences between the succession laws of different countries. The rules concerning compulsory portions, succession arrangements laid out in articles of association, gifts, usufruct rights as well as testamentary dispositions in a will may be affected and might as a result no longer be effective. This can also affect dispositions that were set out in a so-called “Berliner Testament” (Berlin will), as not every country is familiar with this kind of spousal will, with the result that, as the case may be, it might be ineffective. If that were the case, the rules of intestate succession would kick in. These also vary from country to country.

For Germans who have already prepared a will and are living in a foreign country within the EU, it makes sense to have the effectiveness of one’s testamentary dispositions reviewed. Moreover, it is possible to set out in a will whether the succession law of the country in which one’s main place of residence is located or that of one’s home country ought to apply in the event of death. In doing so, one may be able to use the various laws to one’s advantage depending on each individual case. In the case of a Berliner Testament, it is important to note that it is not possible to make unilateral changes to the will.

Lawyers who are competent in the field of succession law can provide you with further assistance on all matters pertaining to succession, wills and contracts of inheritance.

For more informations:


Do you have any questions?
Make an appointment at one of our locations in Cologne, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich or Stuttgart! For International inquiries, please contact us at our offices in London or Singapore!