Universal succession in German law of inheritance – a fundamental principle
Section 1922 of the German Civil Code rules as follows: „Universal succession (1) Upon the death of a person (devolution of an inheritance), that person’s property (inheritance) passes as a whole to one or more than one other persons (heirs).“ (quoted from the official German translation of the Civil Code you may find here).
What does that mean? The heir(s) fully step into the legal position of the testator with respect to all his/her rights and duties. Exempted are only highly personal position, such as an employment etc.
Thus unfortunately not only all assets are comprised, but also all liabilities. Which means in other words: in German law you can also inherit debts. And even worse: the heir is liable with his/her own property or wealth.
But there are ways to prevent this liability, such as disclaiming the inheritance or the opportunity to limit liability.
It is of utmost importance that you consult a competent lawyer, if you suspect there might be considerable liabilities in the estate – otherwise you might get into real difficulties. A disadvantage of the universal succession that governs German law of succession.
If you have any further question concerning German law of succession, do not hesitate to contact us here.