Certificate of inheritance

Why do I need a certificate of inheritance?

There is no obligation for the heir or heirs to apply for a certificate of inheritance. The granting of a certificate of inheritance is also not a prerequisite for the inheritance to accrue. Rather, the heir automatically becomes the heir at the time of death without having to declare acceptance of the inheritance separately or apply for a certificate of inheritance. So why is a certificate of inheritance needed at all? Heirs need a certificate of inheritance in order to identify themselves as heirs to other persons and authorities. For example, if no notarial will has been drawn up, the land registry office requires the presentation of a certificate of inheritance before changing the change of ownership position in the land register. If objects belonging to the estate, such as a car, are to be sold, the buyer cannot know without the presentation of a certificate of inheritance whether the person concluding the contract of sale is even entitled to dispose of the object. If the buyer does not present a certificate of inheritance, his good faith that the seller has also become the heir and is entitled to dispose of the object is not protected. However, a certificate of inheritance can be dispensable, e.g. if there are no substantial assets of the testator apart from bank deposits and the heir has a bank power of attorney anyway, which is effective beyond death. In this case, the heir can already dispose of the credit balance by virtue of his bank power of attorney without the bank requiring the presentation of a certificate of inheritance. Therefore, do not apply for a certificate of inheritance hastily, but let a specialist lawyer for inheritance law clarify whether and, if necessary, for what you need a certificate of inheritance. This lawyer will also help you to formulate your application.


Can banks demand a certificate of inheritance?

In many cases, the heirs will not be able to avoid applying for a certificate of inheritance in order to settle the estate, since the testator's contractual partners (such as the testator's landlord, the testator's tenant, insurance companies, etc.) require the presentation of a certificate of inheritance before accepting declarations of the heirs regarding the estate. However, contracting parties may not insist on the presentation of a certificate of inheritance in all cases. The clause contained in the general terms and conditions of a municipal savings bank, according to which the savings bank may demand the presentation of a certificate of inheritance or similar after the death of the customer in order to clarify the legal entitlement, has been deemed invalid by the courts. The heir was not obliged to prove his or her right to inherit by means of a certificate of inheritance - this proof could also be provided in another form, for example by a notarial will. Therefore, according to the ruling of the Federal Supreme Court, the Sparkasse was not allowed to insist on the certificate of inheritance (BGH, Ref.: XI ZR 401/12).


When is there a dispute about the certificate of inheritance?

In some cases, especially if the testator's will is not clear and allows for interpretation, disputes can already arise during the inheritance certificate granting procedure. If a certificate of inheritance is applied for at the probate court, the latter will inform all persons who are eligible as legal heirs as well as all persons considered in the will. The probate court combines this information with a request to raise objections to the grant of the certificate of inheritance within a certain period of time. Even if no objections have been notified, the court will examine on its own initiative whether there is any reason for not granting the requested certificate of inheritance. However, the court can of course only make this examination on the basis of the information available to the court or to which it has been made aware. For this reason, the persons contacted by the court should of course contact the court if they have any objections, e.g. if they know of circumstances that would suggest a different interpretation of the will.


How do I apply for a certificate of inheritance?

The certificate of inheritance can be applied for either through a notary public or directly to the registrar of the probate court. If the will is complex, difficult to understand or allows for different interpretations, you should consult a lawyer specializing in inheritance law before making an application. If necessary, this lawyer will agree in advance with the probate court on how to formulate the application for a certificate of inheritance. The application can be difficult if there are various possible interpretations. The court is not allowed to improve or amend an application on its own initiative. If the application does not correspond exactly to the succession that the court considers to be correct, the court must reject the application entirely and cannot amend or modify it on its own initiative. For example, the procedure for granting the certificate of inheritance may take a very long time if applications have to be corrected subsequently.

The certificate of inheritance is issued as a sole certificate of inheritance or as a joint certificate of inheritance for all co-heirs or as a partial certificate of inheritance for each co-heir separately. Only the heir or heirs with their respective inheritance quotas are shown on the certificate of inheritance. Persons who are beneficiaries on the basis of bequests but who have not been designated as heirs are not mentioned in the certificate of inheritance. Even persons who are entitled to a compulsory portion are not named in the certificate of inheritance, as they are not heirs.

The application for a certificate of inheritance is usually subject to a fee and is calculated according to the estate value. However, the sums involved are rather small in relation to the inheritance and are regulated by law.


What does a certificate of inheritance cost?

The legal costs for the certificate of inheritance are based on the German Law on Legal and Notarial Costs (GNotKG) and depend on the estate value. There are usually two fees for the issuing of the certificate of inheritance: one for the issuing itself and one for the acceptance of the affidavit with which you credibly provide the information in the application. For example, if the estate amounts to 110,000 Euro, you will pay a total of 546 Euro. With the notary the legal value added tax is added.




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