Mon, Dec. 28, 2009

Changes in German Estate and Probate

CK - Washington.   Major changes in estate and probate law become effective on January 1, 2010. German inheritance law forms a book in the five-book civil code, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch. The Berlin attorney general summarized the key changes in a press release of December 28, 2009.

While the statutory shares of heirs remain largely unchanged, new rules govern the forced statutory shares of disinherited statutory heirs. On the one hand, disinheriting a statutory heir will become easier and the tests clearer, mainly through a test considering crimes. On the other, more persons will benefit, in particular foster and step children.

New rules seek to protect the integrity of assets of an estate. Instead of asset sales necessitated by the old rules requiring buy-out of other heirs, the new rules permit payments to such heirs over time. The amendments apply to standard heirs and disinherited heirs with forced shares. A significant benefit to decedents and care-givers is a provision that encourages care-giving in return for an enhanced inheritance.

In addition, the statute of limitations in German inheritance matters will generally shrink from 30 years to three years. Finally, the recapture of gifts made before death will change to a staggered solution from an all-or-nothing 10-year approach so that a gift made eight years earlier will be recaptured for the computation of distributions at 2/10 of its value at the date of death.

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