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Inheritance issue - how does it work across borders?

(54 Posts)
WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 19:38:34

Just looking on pointers were to ask. My aunt has died this week and it turns out that me and my brother and I are her beneficiaries.

We don't know yet how much there is (if anything), and there's complicating (I think) matters.

My aunt, my brother and I are all German nationals. My aunt lived in the Netherlands, where she had a flat, but she had also some bank accounts in Germany.

I'm a UK resident, and whilst I have a German bank account, there's precious little in there, and all my income is UK based and I pay UK taxes.

So how does the inheritance work tax wise? How do I best get it transferred to a UK account. How do I decide what type of account to open to park the money (depending how much it is)?

If it turns out that the inheritance isn't assets but only debts, how do I get out of it?

What questions do I need to ask when it comes to discuss the whole thing with the executor?

I will not be able to attend the first meeting in person, so will send my dad in my place which makes it more difficult. I know my dad has my best interests at heart, but I don't know whether he really knows how this whole shebang works either, so I'd rather give him a list of points to work through.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 19:59:19

You cannot inherit debts
The executor will settle the estate according to Netherlands tax law, liaising with the Germans.
At the end of the process you receive a cheque which you pay into your UK bank account.
It could be more than a year.

Why do you need to go to any meetings?
Only the executor needs to do that.
Beneficiaries don't.

MoreBeta Thu 20-Dec-12 20:05:13

Sounds like you have nothing to worry about. There will be nothing left after debts are paid so it is really just a formality.

You cannot inherit debts as Talkin says.

WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 20:11:57

Apologies if I ask stupid questions, I've never been in the situation before and what my parents tell me is a bit confusing.

Will it be Dutch tax law even if the testament has been made in Germany, by German nationals (she was only resident in the Netherlands, and owned the flat).

The actual will was made when my uncle was still alive - he determined me and my brother to be beneficiaries, but that the estate would first go to his wife in the case of his death and then passed to us when she dies. According to what I've heard she actually denied that a will existed only a few days before her death.

We only know about it, because a copy was sent to us when my uncle died directly from the court where it was registered (sorry I don't know the right English words)
How can we be sure the executor gets it right when we're not there?

WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 20:17:36

(The meeting question came up, because my dad suggested that I give him formal authorisation to attend in my place when the executor (another uncle) goes to speak to the notary (is that the right word? Argh I need to learn more legalese) about the will.

If this something beneficiaries normally don't do, then I guess I won't have to do that authorisation thing, do I?

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 20:20:21

Who is the executor?

I do not know the difference between German and Dutch testacy law but I suspect its minimal.
If your aunt did not do a new will after your uncle's death then she was technically right in that it may be invalid.

Your best bet is to call and then email the executor (everything in writing)
and see what they say.
The only bit that has to be rushed is the death certificate.
Sorting the will, probate, all of that can take ages (and get very expensive if the lawyers get their way).

But firstly, you need to speak to the executor in the morning and find out what they think is happening.
Until that happens there is little or nothing you can do.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 20:22:50


OK Executor is your uncle.
That makes life a LOT simpler.
Get on the email. CC in all of the family all of the time until you know that the executor has a valid will to work from and then leave him to it.

Beneficiaries are not generally involved AT ALL
I was beneficiary of my Grandad's will and the first I knew was an unexpected cheque!
US family wills have involved cheques arriving from lawyers up to a year later.

WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 20:29:48

The executor is another uncle.Which I don't think makes things any easier.

I don't have a copy of the will at hand, but will see it on sunday, when I go to my parents for Christmas.

The will was made in a way - from what I remember - that she could not change it as it was basically my uncle's - the German term is that we are "Nacherben", and she "Vorerbe", but I don't know whether there are corresponding terms in English? Googling suggest something like "reversionary inheritance"?

WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 20:32:56

One worry I have is (but that may have been mistranslated by my mum) that he was talking about relinquishing the inheritance on our behalf. Would he be able to do that?

Email is not an option, they don't do email, don't think he has a computer in the first place.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 20:37:47

How could he 'relinquish' on your behalf.
He cannot change the will without the permission of the probate court (or its German / Dutch equivalent) and you and your Brother would both have the right to contest that (a VERY expensive game BTW - not worth it for under £100,000)
I take it your aunt had no children of her own ....
Call your Uncle.
If your German is rusty, get your brother to.
Get a few straight answers ASAP to put your mind at rest before Christmas.

I feel for you because DH discovered he had been disinherited while we were on holiday this summer - probate links are still at the side of my screen!

speak to your brother and the two of you work together to get coherent answers.

WidowWadman Thu 20-Dec-12 21:27:20

The good thing is I'm actually going over there for Christmas -so I can talk to both my uncle and my brother in person.

Thanks for setting my head straight. A lot of my worries are based on not knowing how the whole thing works and (I suspect my family not knowing it either) a lot of stuff being talked without actually looking at how it's supposed to work and then giving me a synopsis over the phone.

They had no children of their own. My other uncle who is the executor neither, which I suspect is the reason why my uncle decided to have my brother and me as beneficiaries.

It's a bit of a pig that this overshadowing Christmas - I was looking forward to a few joyful days at home with my family, and now can look forward to those discussions.

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 21:44:12

I lived in Germany and my german husband died. Under german inheritance law the Erbe is the heir, Nacherbe is the After Heir, who inherits after your Aunt, you, BUT you inherit debts too under german law ( surely we do here?)
But you can refuse the inheritance if you want. There will be a time limit to refuse it, but that I don't know. You should contact an english speaking german solicitor specialising in Erbrecht as soon as possible.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 21:47:23

if somebody leaves - say- a house worth £300k and bills worth £295k then the family only get £5k
if on the other hand the debts were £305k, the family would get nothing, but the creditors would take a haircut too.

certainly in the UK, the US and France, the "beneficiaries" do not have to cough up for the debts of the deceased.

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 21:51:35

Is your DH german or british? German blood children cannot be disinherited by german law, unless they killed or attempted to kill the parent.

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 21:54:02

In Germany you do.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 21:55:21

British - and surely people can do what they like in their will ....

In the mean time - OP - Google is your friend

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 21:56:36

The debts are inherited by the heirs in Germany, but would be taken out of the estate, of course.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 22:02:10

but if the debts are greater than the assets, the net debt is not passed on - surely

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 22:05:16

Not in Europe. In France the heirs can not even be the spouses, by law the heirs are the blood-line children. Same in Spain. My friend's parent's emmigrated to Spain and dad died. Mother could not inherit anything from the dad and my friend had to go over to Spain as the sole legal heir and accept the inheritance.
Slightly different in Germany - if no children, legal heirs are 75% for the surviving spouse and 25% for the parents and siblings. You are entiltled to make a joint Will leaving everything to eachother, which disinherits the siblings . but any surviving parents have an obligatory portion of half their legal portion, which they do not have to claim, but have the right to do so if they wish.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 20-Dec-12 22:12:30

In OP's case then the will sounds about right - as she and her brother are the only ones in the next generation so will inherit whatever there is

what about the net debts thing?

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 22:15:13

That I do not know. But do know you that you can refuse/relinquish the inheritance. I have forgotten the german word for it. My husband told me to do it as he thought he was going to die sooner than he did, and he said I would inherit only debts and the burdon of his mother at the time. But he lived another 2 years and sorted his finances out before he died.

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 22:17:46

If my husband had not managed to pay off the mortgage on our house, I would have had to pay all his debts off out of his estate.

MousyMouse Thu 20-Dec-12 22:21:08

in germany you would have to actively refuse to inherit if you don't want to be stuck with any debts (for example for care home costs). but I don't know how it works with the netherlands.
I guess you need a good accountant (because of the possible tax implications) and possibly a solicitor specialised in international inheritance (maybe the toytown germany or dil forums could help you find someone)

digerd Thu 20-Dec-12 22:21:50

I was also told that under german law all property in other countries will come under the german law of the deceased estate. But not 100% sure about that. This was 16 years ago, but not much has changed in Germany

MousyMouse Thu 20-Dec-12 22:24:26

the word is 'erbausschlagung' and means walking away with nothing, no heirlooms or anything.

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