Any estate in Germany underlies the principle of „universal succession“, meaning that the heirs become owners of the decedent's estate upon his death. The succession is determined either by law or by disposition in a last will.
However, heirs have to prove their title of succession by a Certificate of Inheritance ("Erbschein") which is required for the heir(s) to dispose of real estate or bank assets. It is issued by a German surrogate's court ("Nachlassgericht"). This court is usually located at the last residence of the decedent or, if he had no residence in Germany, it is determined by the location of assets of the estate.
For more information please call the German Institute at (02) 2501 6188.