Liability of beneficiaries of a German Estate


#1

My client is the Executor of the estate of a German national who had lived in England since 1945. He died in 2009 having learned shortly before his death that he was a beneficiary of the estate of his german cousin, who died five months before him. My client instructed another firm to act on his behalf in the administration of the English estate. They proceeded to administer and distribute all but £2,000 of the English estate, despite the fact that the legacy due to the deceased from his german cousin was unquantified (but believed to be considerable). No lawyers are involved in the German estate, and there has been a huge language problem throughout. Two or years later we were instructed when it became clear further work was necessary to meet the requirements of the german court and tax office. We received a small interim payment from Germany which was mostly taken up in translation fees. It now transpires, some seven years after his death, that the German cousin had submitted fruadulent tax returns for many years and the amount owing to the german tax authorities is approximately 660,000 euro. We are told by the german community of heirs that under german law the beneficiaries are personally responsible for the debts of the estate and our client is being asked to pay 38,000 euro by the end of June. He is not in a position to do this. The only glimmer of hope is that we are told the value of the german estate will slightly exceed the amount of the debt. The position.now is that the funds in our english estate are all but exhausted. We have urged our client and the beneficiaries to seek specialist advice but he is not in a position to fund this. Is anyone able to confirm that our client, as the Executor of a deceased beneficiary, can be held personally liable for this debt?

Gail Weston
WMB Law