Germans, in general, enjoy traveling and living abroad. Germans devote 80 billion euros annually to vacation in countries like Spain, Italy, Austria, Turkey and the United States. Top destinations for German emigration include the United States and Switzerland. Americans, on the other hand, have a reputation of seldom traveling beyond their own country, while statistics show that over 30 million Americans went abroad in 2014, including over 2 million who visited Germany.
Americans are attracted to Germany as an ex-pat location due to benefits such as Germany’s high standard of living, beautiful natural sites, and collection of exciting cities, among other reasons. Switzerland, which also has a high number of German speakers, is another popular U.S. ex-pat destination. These deep connections can make it important for some Germans and Americans to pursue international estate planning and other international legal help.
Often, the process can be confusing without experienced legal guidance. If a U.S. citizen owns real property in Germany, for example, the property will be subject to German and European estate tax laws. In Germany, there are also three main residency statuses, which include the unlimited settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis), the limited residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and the permanent stay permit for the European Community (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt – EG), which can all affect estate planning. The United States also has complex immigration laws which can become further complicated when applied to IRS regulations and tax forms.
Challenges can also arise in the realms of inheritance in regards to German and American estate planning. For example, in regards to inheritance, German law allows for a “preliminary heir” (Vorerbe) and a “subsequent heir” (“Nacherbe”), should the preliminary heir pass away. This is similar to the U.S. system of inheritance in which there can also be a subsequent or contingent heir.
In addition, there are German laws addressing areas including living wills, inheritance tax and dependents domiciled abroad, the US or elsewhere, which can affect how international estate planning is managed. The United States has similar laws that govern inheritance and post-mortem planning. Experienced international attorneys are needed to navigate the many overlapping laws revolving around international estate planning.
UTF routinely provides advice via experienced attorneys who can help streamline the process of international estate planning for their clients. Carl-Christian Thier, a firm shareholder and admitted in Germany, the United Kingdom and New York, is heading the international estate planning department of the firm: Find out more about our attorneys here and see who is most suited to assist in your international estate planning needs.