Inheritance in Germany – erbengemeinschaft

Bartłomiej Tyndyk

Inheritance in Germany – erbengemeinschaft

Erbengemeinschaft is a concept known under German inheritance law. It means nothing else but compulsory joint inheritance. This happens very often in practice when the inheritance is divided among at least two heirs. They are bound by a community ex lege, that is, by operation of law. Problems arise primarily when the inherited property is a car or real estate because it is difficult to reconcile the use of one thing by two or more people.

In today’s article, we have addressed the issue of compulsory joint inheritance in German inheritance law. Both Erbengemeinschaft and other institutions of German inheritance law are regulated by the German Civil Code, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch.

Inheritance in Germany – Erbengemeinschaft and Its Main Consequences

According to German inheritance law, Erbengemeinschaft is a type of compulsory joint inheritance that arises independently of the will of the heirs. The manner in which inheritance occurs is entirely irrelevant. It does not matter whether the inheritance is based on statutory law, a will, or an inheritance agreement. At the same time, Erbengemeinschaft significantly restricts the heirs’ freedom – until the final division of the inheritance, they are only entitled to jointly manage the estate.

Importantly, regardless of the size of their shares in the inheritance, each of the co-heirs has, in principle, the same rights and obligations towards the others. The inheritance as a whole is the property of each of them, which means that for actions beyond the scope of ordinary management, the consent of all co-heirs is necessary. On the other hand, current inheritance law in Germany allows each heir to demand the dissolution of the joint inheritance.

Inheritance in Germany – Liability of Co-Heirs

According to German inheritance law (§ 2058 Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), co-heirs bear joint and several liability for the common obligations of the joint inheritance. This means that a creditor can demand satisfaction of their claims in two ways:

a) by suing one of the co-heirs (so-called joint and several action);
b) by bringing an action against all co-heirs (so-called joint action).

The choice of the method by which the creditor will enforce their claims depends solely on their will. They can, therefore, use both joint and joint actions.

Sale of Shares to a Third Party

Under § 2034 of the German Civil Code, each co-heir is entitled to sell their share to a third party. However, due to the need to secure the inheritance rights owed to the remaining co-heirs, German inheritance law grants co-heirs the right of first refusal. The deadline for exercising the right of first refusal is 2 months.

By selling their share, a co-heir can even, against the will of the other co-heirs, withdraw from the compulsory joint inheritance. Importantly, according to the provisions of German inheritance law, an heir who wants to sell their inheritance is obliged to conclude an agreement in the form of a notarial deed. This is directly stated in § 2371 of the German Civil Code. If a co-heir does not comply with this requirement, the contract for the sale of the inheritance concluded with a third party is invalid and therefore has no legal effect.

Resolving Disputes Among Co-Heirs

Sharing the same property among several people is often a source of conflicts and differences of opinion. Although each co-owner has the right of ownership, it is significantly restricted due to the identical rights of the other co-owners. This is why disputes often arise among them. The question then arises of how to resolve them when co-owners (co-heirs) are not willing to compromise.

In such situations, one of the options provided directly in German inheritance law is to apply to the court for a binding decision. An alternative solution that does not require the involvement of the state apparatus is to use the services of an independent mediator. Such out-of-court dispute resolution has its significant advantages – it provides the parties with greater privacy.

Inheritance in Germany – Legal Services by Lawyer in Europe

Have you been called to inherit in Germany and are afraid that you won’t be able to meet all the formal requirements? Nothing could be further from the truth! At the law firm Lawyer in Europe, we deal with cases of foreign inheritance law entrusted to us by our clients on a daily basis. Thanks to our many years of practice, we have handled numerous inheritance cases in Germany. Therefore, German inheritance law holds no secrets from us. Lawyers from Lawyer in Europe will be more than happy to assist you in any inheritance matter.

If you need professional legal advice, please feel free to contact our law firm. Using the services of our lawyers guarantees your safety and the proper protection of your interests.



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