Do I have to accept an inheritance?
In case the line of succession after a deceased person is governed by German law, the estate immediately passes on to the heirs („Erben“). German law is for instance applicable if the deceased held German nationality at the time of death or if the estate in Germany comprises land or other immovable assets.
Under German law, an estate in debt can pass on to the heirs who then become liable for it. For this and other reasons, a person appointed heir under testate or intestate succession can make a declaration of renouncement. After a valid renouncement that person is not considered an „heir“ anymore.
The acceptance and renouncement is governed by Sec. 1942 to 1966 BGB (German Civil Code). The heirs can declare their renouncement to the competent German probate court within six weeks after being informed about the death and their entitlement as heirs. Thedeadline is six months in case either the heir stayed outside of Germany (irrespective of his/her actual residence) at the time of death or if the deceased had his sole residence outside of Germany. If an heir does not validly renounce within the legal deadline it is assumed that he/she has accepted the inheritance.
The renouncement has to be recorded at the competent German probate court or can be given in writing as long as the signature is certified by a public servant („öffentlich beglaubigt“). The certification can be carried out by a German notary public („Notar“) or at your competent German Mission abroad. A declaration of renouncement in the prescribed form only becomes valid once it is received by the competent German probate court and not solely through certification of your signature at a German Mission abroad.
It is not possible to renounce under any conditions or to renounce only for parts of the estate.
Renouncement of minors
In case a parent renounces, usually the right of inheritance would pass on to his/her children. In these cases, the right of inheritance has to be renounced for the children as well. The renouncement can be declared by a minor’s legal representative only. In case both parents hold parental responsibility, both will also have to sign the renouncement declaration.
In some cases, a renouncement for minors has to be confirmed by the competent German family court before it can become valid. The family court’s approval has to be submitted to the competent probate court within the above mentioned deadline. The family court’s approval is not necessary, if the minor becomes an heir because the parent who legally represents the minor has renounced the inheritance.
Arranging an appointment and processing time
The signature on the declaration has to be certified. For a certification, your identity has to be established by presenting a valid identity document, for example your passport. Please also bring along the letter from the German probate court that you have been appointed as an heir and the duly completed renouncement form:
Please arrange an appointment beforehand: Online Appointment System
After certification of your signature you will need to send the form to the competent German probate court. Further correspondence regarding receipt and validity of the renouncement has to be carried out directly between yourself and the German probate court. Please keep in mind that the court language will be German only.
A renouncement usually involves two separate fees, one charged by the German Embassy Windhoek for certification, another for the probate court proceedings. The fee for certification is the equivalent to 25,00 euros and needs to be paid in Namibian Dollar. The amount will be converted into Namibian Dollar according to the exchange rate of the Embassy on that day. Payment can be done with cash or credit cards (Visa or MasterCard).
The probate court’s fee will depend on the value of the estate.