A Bequest vs an Inheritance under German Law

The interest in a German estate can either be in form of a bequest (“Vermächtnis”) or an inheritance (“Erbe”, “Erbschaft”). A bequest (“Vermächtnis”) relates to a specific item or a specific amount of money. By contrast, an inheritance means that the beneficiary is either the sole heir or part of a community of heirs (“Erbengemeinschaft”) that steps into the role of the decedent and takes over the latter’s rights, obligations, assets and liabilities.

Heirs (“Erben”) are personall liable for the debts of the decedent; the legatees (“Vermächtnisnehmer”) are not.

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