Savings account book in a German estate

Savings account book in a German estate
Problems with banks

As an heir, how can I claim the money from a savings account?

In German inheritance law, with the decease of the testator the heirs get into the full legal position of the deceased person.

This of course also means that the heirs are entitled to the savings the testator deposited on a saving account. But there might be a difficulty: the banks issue a so-called savings account book („Sparbuch“), which has a quite peculiar legal character in German civil law.

The main legal feature of such a book is that the one who is in possession of it is considered to be entitled to the savings. The banks can and have to pay to him/her only on the basis that they are holding the book in their hands. 

The consequence is that the heirs claiming the money from the savings account not only have to prove their position as heirs (usually by showing a certificate of inheritance). They also have to show the savings account book. Sometimes the banks even demand to see the last pass sheets over the account.

If the book is lost, a report of the loss has to be made. But this might be tricky, for example because both spouses are owners, but we have a certificate of inheritance only concerning the testator who died after his/her spouse. Getting another certificate of inheritance might be costly and time-consuming.

This is also a reason why you should never throw away any – official – paper you might find in all the belongings the testator left behind. Rather consult a competent lawyer first.

If you have any further question concerning German law of succession, do not hesitate to contact us here.

Dr. Donat Ebert

Ügyvéd - Rechtsanwalt (HU, D)

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