Sun, May. 01, 2005

Rule or Exception

CK - Washington.   Sometimes, business has international issues outside of the transactional practice. For example, questions arise about a deceased employee's probate of assets located in Germany. As a service to business clients, such assistance can support the principal probate attorney who handles the domestic estate located in the United States.

In two recent cases, the ancillary administration before the German probate court set a new record. Working with decent last wills and testaments that addressed international issues, obtaining good translations by translators qualified for the German court, and setting on quick appointments with the German consul produced results in record time, measured in weeks instead of months or years.

In each of the cases, the court sent the certificate of inheritance, as requested, to both the bank holding the assets and the executor. Since processing of the German tax clearance papers had run in parallel, and the bank appears to understand these cases, the distribution of the German assets to the American estate should follow quickly.

Remarkebly, in these two cases, the probate courts in two different cities in Germany were amenable to correspondence by email which helped significantly with the time difference. At one court, the judge used email, and the staff did not have access to it, so that some communications took unconventional routes. A judge in another city handling another matter--a quite convoluted estate--also communicates by email. There, email makes a huge difference because the judge works at her desk in the court house only in the mornings, German time, and cannot be reached by telephone during American office hours. The judges deserve credit for taking the initiative in using email in international cases, especially when many lawyers in Germany express delight when they happen to reach an answering machine--also not common at the courts.

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