Certificate of inheritance (“Erbschein”) and application process

A signed document with a stamp reading inheritance

Renunciation of an inheritance, © Colourbox

16.07.2021 - Article

Here you can find out what a certificate of inheritance is and how you can apply for it.

What is a certificate of inheritance (“Erbschein”)?

If an heir or an heiress wishes to make a claim towards a bank or other instiution in Germany, that s/he has made an inheritance and thus has become owner of a claim (for example being paid the account or getting access to an estate stituated in Germany), usually the Institution will ask for a certificate of inheritance, which is issued by the German probate court.

The certificate of inheritance specifies which inheritances have been made. Without such a certificate, claims can often not be processed in Germany.

Where can I apply for a certificate of inheritance?

The responsible German probate court is the one of the district where the testator had his residence or stay in Germany at the date of death. If the testator was a German citizen at the time of death, but did not have residence or did not stay in Germany, then the responsible court is the probate court at Berlin-Schöneberg. If the testator did not have German citizenship and also did not have residence or stay in Germany, then the probate court of the city where the inheritance is situated is responsible. The citizenship of the testator is thus crucial for determining the jurisdiction of the court.

How do I apply for a certificate of inheritance?

In the certificate of inheritance application, the applicant must provide a range of different information that is decisive for the succession and thus for the content of the certificate of inheritance. A questionnaire has been developed for this information, which you must fill out and present at the Embassy (see below).

Depending on the family circumstances, documents must also be submitted that prove the information in the application. These are, for example, a copy of the will, the death certificate of the testator and possibly other persons, birth certificates of the children, a marriage certificate or similar.

In addition, the applicant has to affirm in lieu of an oath that he is not aware of anything that contradicts the accuracy of the information in the application (Section 2356 (2) BGB). This affidavit must be certified. In Germany this is done by the court or the notary. In order to save the applicant a trip to Germany, the notarization abroad can be done at a German diplomatic mission such as the German Embassy Windhoek.

Appointment and processing time

Please use the contact form Contact the German Embassy Windhoek to contact the legal and consular department in order to clarify individual questions in advance and to make an appointment.

The German Embassy Windhoek receives the questionnaire for preparing the certificate of inheritance application and the other documents, prepares the application and arranges an appointment for the notarization. Then the applicant submits the notarized application together with the other documents to the competent probate court, which finally issues the certificate of inheritance.

Overall, the process from submitting the questionnaire to the diplomatic mission abroad to issuing the certificate of inheritance usually takes several months.

What are the fees?

The applicant incurs two fees: On the one hand, fees must be paid for notarizing the application at the diplomatic mission abroad in accordance with the Foreign Costs Act. In addition, the probate court also charges fees for issuing the certificate of inheritance.


The questionnaire for preparing the certificate of inheritance application can be found here:

Fragebogen für das Erbscheinverfahren (in deutscher Sprache) PDF / 125 KB

Fragebogen für das Erbscheinverfahren (in englischer Sprache) PDF / 120 KB

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