Probate and Estate Planning in California and for German-American clients

Working closely with our German partner law firms, we advise and serve clients with issues having a nexus to the U.S. and Germany. We advise U.S. and German residents/citizens on all aspects of German-American inheritance law in both English and German. Further, we advise clients of all nationalities who have property interests within the jurisdictions of the U.S. and Germany.  We provide our clients with superior service by providing comprehensive representation that considers  all applicable domestic and international tax and civil laws and regulations. Our services include

Estate Planning

We specialize in estate planning. Through the use of various legal instruments we preserve the maximum amount of wealth and flexibility possible for the intended beneficiaries. We focus our estate planning practice on estates with international exposure. For more information regarding our international estate planning practice, please see our page entitled International Estate Planning. 

Our attorneys work closely with our clients to create complex, yet efficient estate plans that preserve and extend their wealth for future generations. As part of this commitment, we customize an estate plan to fit our clients’ needs and address gift and estate tax issues in order to minimize tax exposure. Our goal is to translate our clients’ aspirations and goals into a viable estate plan. Accordingly, our services include the following: 

  • Estate, tax and multi-generation succession planning 
  • Health and long term care planning 
  • Drafting of revocable and irrevocable trusts 
  • Qualified Domestic Trusts 
  • Tax analysis and application 
  • Life insurance and payable on death account analysis and application 
  • Tax preparation and audits 
  • Will drafting 
  • Living wills 
  • International wills

Trust/Probate Proceedings in California

We provide legal analysis and fiduciary services for estates with assets and/or beneficiaries in the California. Our services include the following:

  • Serving as administrator for estates requiring probate in the U.S.;
  • Preparing and filing probate proceedings;
  • Serving as Trustee for trusts with a U.S. situs;
  • Litigating on behalf of our clients in U.S. probate courts;
  • Preparing tax analysis advising clients options for limiting U.S. federal and state tax liability;
  • Marshalling assets within the U.S. by working with financial institutions and real estate professionals to distribute assets efficiently;
  • Drafting estate plans for individuals with interests within and outside the U.S.;
  • Preparing a legal analysis regarding U.S. inheritance laws to be used in foreign courts;
  • and Advising on family law issues impacting estate planning decisions within the U.S.

Estate Litigation

Probate matters can be emotionally charged and challenging to resolve as family members and friends of the decedent often have disparate positions. Our probate litigation practice utilizes our civil litigation experience along with our probate specialization to effectively resolve these challenging issues. We navigate the probate code as well as the rules of civil procedure, evidence and discovery in order to represent our clients in contested probate matters. 

Matters typically handled in our probate litigation practice include: 

  • Will contests
  • Administrator/Executor breach of duty claims
  • Lack of capacity of decedent to draft a will 
  • Undue influence in the drafting of a will 
  • Mediation and arbitration representation 
  • Fiduciary appointments and contests (administrator/executor)

Trust Litigation

Our trust litigation practice utilizes our civil litigation and estate planning experience to provide our clients with effective and efficient resolution of contested trust matters. Our experience allows us to navigate trust law and the rules of evidence and discovery to persuasively represent our clients in litigation settings. 

Matters typically handled in our trust litigation practice include: 

  • Attacking the validity of a trust 
  • Trust contests
  • Trust interpretation and construction
  • Compelling a trust accounting 
  • Trustee breach of duty claims 
  • Trustee removal 
  • Case evaluation and analysis 
  • Mediation and arbitration representation 

German-American Estate Planning

We advise clients from common and civil law jurisdictions in all matters connected with international estate planning, including, but not limited to:

  • Review and analysis of existing wills;
  • Drafting of both U.S. wills and German testaments;
  • Structuring U.S. based revocable and irrevocable trusts to avoid and/or minimize German estate, inheritance and/or gift tax liability;
  • Advising on the use of Payable on Death accounts and other instruments that allow for the transfer of assets outside of probate;
  • Advising on U.S. federal estate tax and the German-American Double-Taxation Treaty;
  • Advising on U.S. and German gift taxation; and
  • Preparing living wills and health care proxies for both the U.S. and Germany.

Support for Executors or Trustees of U.S. Estates in Germany

Together with our German partner law firm we advise and assist fiduciaries serving as executors or trustees of U.S. estates or trusts with marshaling assets in Germany and/or attending to German heirs. Our services include:

  • Securing recognition of validity from German probate courts for U.S. wills and the issuance of German Letters Testamentary (“Testamentsvollstreckerzeugnis”) for U.S. executors;
  • Obtaining German Certificate of Heirship (“Erbschein”) for American heirs;
  • Providing legal representation for U.S. heirs, beneficiaries, executors, administrators and trustees of estates in connection with obtaining assets held by German banks, insurance companies and financial institutions, passing both through or outside of probate;
  • Preparing and filing German estate, inheritance, and gift tax returns for American estates, heirs and beneficiaries to ensure recognition of payments of U.S. gift and estate taxes (federal and state) in Germany and deduction of such payments from any German estate, inheritance and gift tax liabilities;
  • Representing U.S. executors, administrators, heirs, beneficiaries and trustees before German probate courts and taxation authorities, including obtaining tax clearance for the release of German assets passing to U.S. heirs and beneficiaries and defending against claims of unwarranted German estate, inheritance and gift taxes; and
  • Consulting regarding the structuring and timing of distributions from U.S. trusts by U.S. trustees to German resident beneficiaries to minimize any German estate, inheritance and gift tax liabilities.

Representation of U.S. Clients in Contentious Probate Proceedings in Germany

Togehter with our German partner law firm we represent U.S. beneficiaries as well as executors and trustees in contentious probate proceedings in German courts. Our services include:

  • Forced heirship claims under German law (Pflichtteil);
  • Will contest on the grounds of Undue Influence and Lack of Mental Capacity;
  • Dissolution of community of co-heirs (Erbengemeinschaft);
  • Dismissal/removal of executors;
  • Contentious Determination of heirs (Erbenfeststellungklage); and
  • Injunctions.

Representation in Contentious Trust matters in Germany

Although trusts generally do not exist under German law, there are some German legal instruments that are similar to Trusts (e.g. Dauertestamentsvollstreckung, Vor- und Nacherbschaft, Stiftung, Treuhand) and German courts may interpret foreign trusts the equivalent of German legal instruments. Together with our German partner law firm represent U.S. beneficiaries as well as Trustees in German courts the validity and/or administration of U.S. trusts are at issue. Our services include:

  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty;
  • Accounting;
  • Removal of Trustee (z.B. “Dauertestamentsvollstrecker”);
  • Trust Modification; and
  • Trust Termination.
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Do you have any questions? We look forward to assisting you. In an effort simplify and expedite the process, we ask that you use our contact form for any preliminary questions and/or comments. Please provide a detailed description of the matter and add relevant attachments. After sending your inquiry, an attorney will contact you either by telephone or by e-mail within 24 hours and, where necessary, pose further questions or submit a proposal for consultation.  Of course, you can also call us directly to make an appointment for a personal consultation or telephone consultation. All potential clients will be informed in advance of any costs that may be incurred during the initial consultation

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