Certificate of Estate

Inheriting something and being able to prove it when questioned are two very different animals. This page will give you information on what is needed to apply for such certificate

What function does a certificate of estate have? When do I need it?
A certificate of estate is an official document proving your status as an uncontested heir for legal interaction. As the most common example, you will need such certificate, if you want to take over the bank account though the bequeather has not provided access to the account during lifetime. Generally, you will need the certificate, if somebody demands proof or actively doubts your status.
Okay, I understand this part, but we’re three heirs and we all need a certificate. Will we get copies?

This is no real issue. You all are entitled to receive a certificate of estate – individually. The individual certificate will show your personal share in the estate. In German that is called “Teil-Erbschein”.

Where do I apply for a certificate of estate?

You have to apply at the county court (Amtsgericht) where the bequeather passed away (§343 I FamFG).

The court expects that you show with appropriate documents, that you are really the beneficiary (§2356 I BGB). If you possess the last will and especially if you are not the only heir, you have to submit the original testament to the court.

Great, no court is competent to grant me the certificate because my relative died outside of Germany. Is this really true?

No need to worry, such court will be competent to issue a certificate of estate where assets of the estate are.

How do I prove that I‘m a relative of the person who died?

Certificates of estate will only be issued upon application. You will have to submit following documents to court:

  • Death certificate,
  • Birth certificate(s) of relevant persons,
  • Familenbuch, i.e. book on vital documents and relationships of the family,
  • Mention, if any other persons might be eligible as heirs,
  • If there is a testament then it must be submitted, or at least be mentioned that one exissts and who has it.
Who is entitled to apply for a certificate estate?

Any heir or executor / manager of an estate and in the case of a minor, the parents can apply on his or her behalf. If anybody has an executable instrument against the deceased, he may also apply.

Hey, I thought I would get a certificate of estate once and forever. I just got a letter from court instructing me, that the certificate I have received has been revoked and I am to return it and any existing copies. Can this be true?

Oh yes, this not only can but always will happen, once the court obtains knowledge that the facts leading to the previous certificate are wrong. This does not necessarily mean, that you did something wrong. It often happens, when a later testament has been found and its content differs from the one that lead to your certificate. Well, such is life.

How much does such certificate cost?

The Ordinance of Costs for Administrative Acts determines a fee that is assessed in relationship to the value of the estate. The minimum fee is € 10.

Are there any time limitations to apply?

No, there are no limitations by what time you must have applied. However, you ought to quickly apply, if you need it. The court needs several months to process it.

Additional information