German-New Zealand probate law and estate planning

Germany-New Zealand Estate Planning and Probate Law

Together with Mrs. Jenny Lowe from the law offices of Johnston Lawrence Limited (Wellington, NZ) we advise New Zealand clients residing in Germany or having property in Germany and German clients residing in New Zealand or having property in New Zealand on all aspects of German- inheritance law, both in English and in German.


We consult with a view towards the overall tax and civil law situation. Our services include:

Germany-New Zealand Estate Planning

We advise clients from the New Zealand in all matters connected with international estate planning, including, but not limited to:

  • Reviewing existing wills
  • Designing and drafting both New Zealand wills and German testaments
  • Structuring New Zealand trusts to avoid or minimize German estate, inheritance or gift tax liabilities
  • Advising on the use of Joint Accounts and the appointment of successor beneficiaries to allow for the transfer of assets outside of probate
  • Advising on German inheritance tax and
  • Preparing health care directives (living wills) and health care proxies for both New Zealand and Germany.

Support for New Zealand executors/administrator of estates in Germany

We advise and assist clients acting as executors or trustees of estates or trusts in New Zealand with assets in Germany and/or having German heirs. Our services include:

  • Obtaining recognition of validity from German probate courts for NZ wills and the issuance of German Certificate of executorship (Testamentsvollstreckerzeugnis) for NZ executors
  • Assistance with obtaining German Certificate of Heirship (Erbschein) for heirs
  • Providing legal representation for heirs, beneficiaries, executors, administrators and trustees of estate) in connection with obtaining assets held by German banks, insurance companies and financial institutions, passing both through or outside of probate
  • Assistance with the preparation and filing of German inheritance tax returns (Erbschaftsteuererklärung) for NZ estates, heirs and beneficiaries
  • Representing NZ executors, administrators, heirs, beneficiaries and trustees before German probate courts and taxation authorities, including obtaining tax clearance for the release of German assets passing to NZ heirs and beneficiaries and defending against claims of unwarranted German estate, inheritance and gift taxes
  • Consulting regarding the structuring and timing of distributions from NZ trusts by NZ trustees to German resident beneficiaries to minimize any German estate, inheritance and gift tax liabilities

Support for Estate/Probate Proceedings in New Zealand

We also advise clients in probate proceedings on any questions pertaining to German inheritance law. Our services include providing Affidavits in Foreign Law (German Law) and Legal Opinions on German law in foreign contentious probate proceedings.

Representation of New Zealand clients in Contentious probate proceedings in Germany

We represent NZ beneficiaries as well as executors and trustees in contentious probate proceedings in German courts, e.g.

  • Forced heirship claims under German law (Pflichtteil)
  • Will contest on the grounds of Undue Influence and Lack of Mental Capacity
  • Dissolution of community of co-heirs (Erbengemeinschaft)
  • Dismissal/removal of executors
  • Contentious Determination of heirs (Erbenfeststellungklage)
  • Injunctions

Representation in Contentious Trust matters

Although no trusts exist under German law in the strictest sense, there are some German legal instruments that are similar to Trusts, e.g. durable execution of the estate (Dauertestamentsvollstreckung), preliminary and subsequent heirship (Vor- und Nacherbschaft), foundations (Stiftung) and German courts may interpret foreign trusts the equivalent of German legal instruments. We represent NZ beneficiaries as well as NZ Trustees in German courts, e.g

  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Verletzung treuhänderischer Pflichten);
  • Accounting (Rechenschaft);
  • Removal of a durable executor of the estate (Dauertestamentsvollstrecker)
  • Trust Modification;
  • Trust Termination.

Do You have any Questions?

We look forward to assisting you. For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, we request that you use our contact form for your inquiry and describe the matter as clearly as possible. In addition, you can include relevant attachments. After submitting your inquiry, we will contact you either by telephone or e-mail within one working day. If we can assist, we will suggest a time and date for an initial consultation. Of course, you can also contact this firm or a particular attorney directly to make an appointment for a personal consultation or telephone consultation (find contact details here). Please be advised that no attorney-client relationship is created by sending us an email or filling out this contact form. For information on our fees, please click here.  

Attach documents to your message to us (max 5 MB).