Inheritance Law in Finland

and German-Finnish Successions

 I. Which law applies?

Cross-border successions that affect Germany and Finland require the determination of the applicable jurisdiction: a genuine “International Inheritance Law” which settles the applicable law does not exist. Thus, the affected states determine the applicable laws themselves.

However, since August 2015 the European legislation has to be assessed by the affected states. To facilitate cross-border-successions within the European Union, the European Parliament and the Council passed the Regulation of Successions (Regulation No 650/12), applicable to persons deceased on or after 17th, of August 2015.

According to the EU Regulation of Successions, the applicable jurisdiction to cross-border successions is determined by the last “habitual residence” of the deceased.

1st Case: A German Citizen moves to Finland, but travels to Germany regularly to visit relatives and friends. After five years abroad, he dies in Finland. Due to the regulation of the EU Regulation on successions, the last “habitual residence” is the determining factor. In this case, the deceased lived and worked in Finland, his habitual residence is in Finland, Finnish law has to be applied.

II. Matrimonial Property Regime

If a marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses, under the Finnish legislation the inheritance provisions, as well as the matrimonial provisions, are applied parallel. Only after the division of the matrimonial property has been performed the setting of the estate takes place.

The Finnish regulations on matrimonial property law differ substantially from the German regulations:

If the statutory marital property regime (§ 35 avioliitolaki) applies, the spouses are entitled to participate in the entire assets of the respective spouse (avioosuus). An exception forms the estate in severalty that is based on particular acquisition.

While the division of the matrimonial property, firstly it must be determined how the assets are attributed to the spouses. After the obligations have been paid, the assets which establish an “avioosuus” are summed up and every spouse is entitled to claim half of the amount. The spouse who owns the lower property receives the amount for the equation out of the property of the respective spouse (tasinko). If the surviving spouse is entitled to this claim, the claim is asserted towards the successors. The amount concerning the equation is free of tax.

If the deceased spouse was the owner of the higher property, the surviving spouse enjoys the privilege to that effect that he is not obliged to compensate the excessing assets. The amount of the compensation merges to the successors, not until the death of the surviving spouse.

III. Substantive Law

1. Intestate successions:

The intestate succession engages if the deceased did not leave a will. In general, the descendants inherit the entire estate. The Finnish legislation does not contain inheritance provisions in favor of the surviving spouse beside the children. However, the surviving spouse has the full right to use the undivided estate of the deceased. But he may not dispose of or pledge the estate for own debt.

If the deceased does not leave any children behind, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.

The parents of the deceased may inherit the estate in equal parts after the surviving spouse has deceased. If one of the parents is deceased the portion is forwarded to his descendants.

2. Will and Succession Contract:

Testamentary provisions are not provided within the Finnish legislation. Only the legal successors are entitled to inherit.

According to the 10th chapter of the Finnish succession law provisions the will must be established in the written form and signed by the testator. Moreover, the will has to be established in front of two witnesses and must be signed by the witnesses. Spouses, relatives, and other successors are not entitled to act as a witness. The Finnish legislation acknowledges joint testaments, they are valid. Succession contracts, on the other hand, are invalid.

3. Forced Heirship:

The children and adoptive children of the deceased are entitled to forced heirship. The compulsory portion amounts to half of the intestate portion. The claim is to be made towards the entire estate. However, the compulsory portion may be paid off in money.

The compulsory portion has to be claimed in a period of six months upon the opening of the will.

IV. Proceedings

After a person residing in Finland died, an estate inventory has to be established within three months. This inventory lists successors as well as the assets. The division of the estate is based on the estate inventory as well as the inheritance tax.

The inventory must be forwarded to the concerned tax agency within one month after the establishment of the inventory.

V. Succession Taxation

The Finnish succession taxation is regulated under the law of inheritance tax. The Finnish inheritance tax applies on the inheritance share of each beneficiary and does not apply to the overall estate.

The inheritance tax legislation was reformed in 2009. The tax allowances were increased and the number of tax categories was reduced to two classes.

For more information click here.

Do you need help? Please do not hesitate to contact us

Phone: + 49 (0) 30 609 82 88 55
Rechtsanwalt Torben Swane
German Probate & Wills Lawyer, Specialist in International Probate and Estate Planning

Welserstraße 10-12
10777 Berlin-Schöneberg


Phone: + 49 (0) 40 30 39 18 75
Rechtsanwalt Christian Block
German Probate & Wills Lawyer, Specialist in International Probate and Estate Planning

Friesenweg 38
22763 Hamburg

Office Hours:
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