Rechtsanwalt in Hamburg & Côte d´Azur

Henning Schwarzkopf, M.C.L.

Estate Planning

Estate Planning

German and cross-border estate planning

Inheritance law and estate planning sound complicated and in many cases they are, but they do not necessarily have to be.

Inheritance matters are regulated by law in Germany and France, so a glance at the regulations should suffice. Unfortunately, life with all its facets and peculiarities here and there determines the circumnstances that apply in individual cases, which are not always easy to regulate even with all foresight.

Thus, in both countries there is the legal succession if there is no or no comprehensive will of the testator. This may be sufficient for “simple” circumstances (i.e. a married couple with one child and one house each in Germany and France), so that the succession resulting from the law does not require any supplement. In life, however, unexpected events can occur or situations can arise that make it advisable, especially for people who always want to be prepared for all eventualities, to determine the dispositions of their descendants regarding their inheritance in advance by means of a will.

But what happens if, despite a will, assets were given away by the testator before death (are they to be added to the estate?), can family members be excluded because they broke off contact years ago, how does one consider the decedent’s lady friend, even if the wife is to be rewarded for her “loyalty” in the home and hearth? These questions show the diversity of inheritance law in the national area alone, but it becomes much more difficult if one or more countries have to be included in addition, because, for example, the testator lives in two countries (in summer in Germany and in winter in Florida), additionally has a stock portfolio in Switzerland and the children live in different countries, the son with his American wife and their children (also U.S. citizens) in New York, the daughter married to a Briton with her children in South Africa. To squeeze these family relationships, which are not uncommon nowadays, into “one” inheritance law is difficult and requires a detailed examination and consideration of all conceivable case constellations.

This only covers the legal part. The tax implications also play an equally decisive role if one wishes not only to leave the heirs with taxes due, but also to reduce them to the amount that is legally permissible by making use of all legal possibilities.

This interface between inheritance and tax law shows how important thorough estate planning is for the testator and his heirs. This is only possible in close and trusting cooperation between the client, who wishes to arrange and regulate his estate, and his legal and tax advisors. The latter should be resident in the countries concerned and familiar with the relevant laws, regulations and peculiarities. Only then can they effectively achieve the best possible benefit for the parties involved.

Henning Schwarzkopf, admitted in Germany and France, meets this requirement and cooperates in many cases with renowned tax advisors who are also licensed in Germany, France and Monaco.

Particularly in his work in the south of France, Monaco plays an important role in estate planning, because the Principality offers several attractive structuring options for cross-border dispositions. To know them, to use them especially for Germans and to implement them is one of our consulting focal points, also in close cooperation with local experts.

In these general considerations, many of our clients are looking for answers to the following questions:

– Do German, French or Monegasque inheritance laws apply to my will and its valid form? Which formal requirements apply, which language, will it be deposited and where?

– How and where is the inheritance regulated and how can it be changed with a will.

– Is there a forced heirship in France and/or Monaco, who is entitled to it and how much, and where can it be claimed?

– Does joint property or separation of property apply to marriage in all countries, are there deviations and how can they be changed or adapted (for certain countries), also for certain assets? What tax options are there in this context?

– Does the exemption from inheritance tax in Monaco also extend to assets in France, Germany or other countries (e.g. USA)? Is the use of an intermediate company (where and which company form), a trust or a foundation useful and how are they regulated?

– Simple questions about the notarization of dispositions: in front of a notary in France, Germany or Monaco? Or preferably at the respective consulates?

These questions offer a small sample of the spectrum of advice we provide for our clients in Hamburg, Antibes and Monaco.

Whether entrepreneur or wealthy private individual, we advise on the passing on of one’s own wealth to the next generation. This can be limited to Germany but can also include foreign assets.

We draft wills and inheritance contracts for our clients, considering their specific personal and financial circumstances. In doing so, we keep a close eye not only on the rights of any beneficiaries of a forced heirship, but also on the tax consequences of the transfer of assets.

In addition, we support our clients in asserting their claims as heirs, legatees, beneficiaries of a charge or beneficiaries of a forced heirship.

We are also happy to advise you on your rights and obligations as executor of a will, especially in the context of the settlement of groups of heirs.

More and more frequently, assets abroad must be taken into account. Careful advice is very important here. Our offices abroad can provide valuable assistance in this regard.

Estate planning is important and should be done carefully.