China has an estate tax

Inheritance in other countries

The saying “different countries, different customs” is proven again and again and shows how different the perception of everyday things can be in different cultures. Historical events, old traditions and the respective mentality play a major role here and contribute significantly to the fact that there are sometimes large regional differences. This is also noticeable in inheritance law, which makes for a high level of complexity, especially in international inheritance cases.

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Basic principles in inheritance law differ from country to country

The basic principles of inheritance law are usually quite similar from one region to another, so that within Europe, for example, there are quite similar views on the regulation of inheritance. In other cultures, however, the attitude towards matters of inheritance law is sometimes very different, which sometimes causes astonishment. Above all, people who not only live in their home country but were more or less globetrotters should deal with this topic, after all, inheritance in other countries can sometimes turn out to be completely different. It is also possible to draw up an international testament according to the Washington Agreement.

In some cases, however, neighboring states already have more or less major features in inheritance law that consumers should first be aware of. Inheritance is made easier within the European Union, because the EU Inheritance Law Regulation is intended to ensure uniform framework conditions from 2015. The European Certificate of Succession is also being discussed and the European Parliament decides on an electoral law. There should be new regulations within Europe that should make inheriting and bequeathing between states a little less complicated in the future.

Particularities in the inheritance law of some countries

There are special features, for example, with regard to the tax treatment of inheritance under international family and inheritance law. In Germany, the heir is asked to pay and has to pay inheritance tax to the tax authorities if his share of the inheritance exceeds the statutory exemptions for inheritance. In Great Britain, on the other hand, there is an estate tax so that it is not the heirs but rather the estate that has to pay taxes to the British tax authorities. In the UK, there is even no inheritance tax in the event that the registered partner or surviving spouse inherits. In Sweden, however, inheritances are considered family affairs and do not have to be taxed at all, because in 2004 the Swedish state abolished inheritance and gift taxes. In addition, there are double taxation agreements with some countries that protect the heirs from excessive tax burdens.

In some African countries, national inheritance law has proven to be particularly curious. In Kenya, for example, not only the belongings of the deceased testator but also his wife are traditionally inherited. Chinese inheritance law also holds curiosities and unusual features for Europeans. In addition to the assets of the deceased, their power and influence also belong to the estate and are therefore inherited, from which the descendants of the political elite in particular benefit significantly. In this way, not only the assets but also the social position remain in the family and are passed on from generation to generation.

In some Islamic countries, the Sharia is the basis for inheritance law and thus provides the legal estate regulation. This is the case, for example, in Iran, as well as in Egypt and the Palestinian territories. The sons of the deceased testator receive inheritance benefits from Sharia law and have twice the inheritance claim compared to their daughters. In return, male descendants have to pay bridal money when they marry and are obliged by Sharia to pay for their mother and other needy family members.

Anyone who stays in a foreign country and has their center of life there should not only familiarize themselves with the respective customs, but also with the BGB - inheritance law. In Germany, the right of residence is usually decisive, but elsewhere the place of residence can also be decisive. Emigrants are therefore sometimes treated according to local inheritance law and should know the specifics of the respective country in order to be able to adjust to this. We recommend reading our special area on international inheritance law, which also includes the frequently requested Spanish international inheritance law or Italian inheritance law among many others. For example, if you inherit real estate abroad, there are a few things to consider.