Inheritance case of American citizen in Germany

Inheritance case of American citizen in Germany

If an American citizen dies in Germany, the decisive question as to which inheritance law to apply, is whether the testator (the American citizen in question) was a habitual resident to Germany. 

Since the EU Regulation No 650/2012 on – among others – applicable law in matters of inheritance entered into force on 17. August 2015 the general rule is that the Law of the State has to be applied in which the deceased had his habitual residence at the time of death, Article 21 of the Regulation. 

This general rule finds a „universal application“ with a maybe quite surprising result: 

It does not matter at all, which nationality the testator – the deceased – had, whether that was an „EU-European“ or „European, but NON-EU“, „EU – but not GB, Ireland and Denmark“ (these three countries do not take part in the application of the named regulation) or – as in our case: A US-American citizenship. 

German inheritance law will be applied universally to everyone who has his/her habitual residence in Germany. Of course the same is true for France: who has habitual residence in France will have French law applied to his/her estate, In Portugal its Portuguese law and so on. 

There is of course one exception: If the testator left behind a last will governing validly the law to be applied, then this law is relevant. 

If the American citizen was „just“ a tourist or on business in Germany, but had her/his habitual residence in the USA, then the law of inheritance of his/her home-state has to be applied.

Whether German inheritance law will be applied to the parts of the estate that are still in the USA, if an American citizen with habitual residence in Germany died in Germany, cannot be decided here. This is not a matter of German or European law, it is to be decided by the foreign law. 

If you have an issue in German inheritance law, you can pick up contact with us here. We support you in your case all over Germany – in English. 

Dr. Donat Ebert
RechtsanwaltLawyer (HU, D)



Posted in German inheritance law and tagged , , .