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Risks of community of heirs from the point of view of an affected person

The risks described here are largely based on concrete experience. With several of my experiences (e.g. possible data transfer/stacking) that I have made, concrete proof that the co-heirs are behind it is hardly possible. For one thing, when I'm alone, I have no witness to my concrete experiences. On the other hand, some extraordinary experiences can be entirely coincidental. However, other circumstances indicate that this was no coincidence, but that the co-heirs were behind it.

I Risks

1. That your lawyer causes maximum costs, that your lawyer communicates with the co-heirs without informing you, or allows himself to be put under pressure by the lawyer of a co-heir. And that your lawyer does not adequately represent your interests.

The lawyers probably earn the least in the case of an early out-of-court settlement, and the most when the heirs are arguing to the max. With corresponding inheritance assets, a lot of money then flows to the lawyer. I obtained an initial consultation from several lawyers in order to then make a decision. I wanted to engage one of the lawyers in a partial matter. After he first told me how easy this was for him, I then asked for a cost estimate for the matter. However, that was too high a risk for him and incalculable.

2. Powers of attorney in communities of heirs

If the co-heirs grant you individual or joint powers of attorney for the community of heirs, so that you can regulate the affairs for the community of heirs - "since you live closer to home" - this has a very constructive effect and people seem to trust you. If the co-heirs give you the power of attorney “to take care of the matter for the co-heirs” consider:

(a) if a joint power of attorney, a mutual power of attorney is pressed in your eye, you should prick up your ears. In my opinion, if you do something together, you don't need mutual authorization.

(b) each of the co-heirs can withdraw your power of attorney at any time, keep that in mind.

(c) with joint powers of attorney, there is a risk that one of the authorized persons will only show their ID and another person will pretend to be you. And I'm not sure everyone - to whom the proxy is presented - insists that both proxies identify themselves. This is particularly problematic if the power of attorney(s) allow cash payments (especially in unlimited amounts).

3. Estate Liabilities/Division of Estate

Even if there are sufficient estate assets, the estate creditors can assert a claim against any heir, even before the division of the estate. A restriction to the estate is only possible as part of a process. So you have to reckon with bills for outstanding care costs, private doctor's bills, but also other bills for costs - which arise in connection with the estate - ending up with you, and the co-heirs show no interest in these being settled from the estate or share in costs. In this respect, your willingness to take care of the matter at the request of the co-heirs can make it easier for the co-heirs - for example by passing on your address - to assign the creditors of the estate to you. If one warning comes after the other - even before accepting the inheritance - this is a clear sign of this.

4. Inventory

(a) Ask your parents to take prints of your family photos, it may be the last resort for prints. Unless you tell yourself, if my siblings are that mean, I'd rather not have to remember family of origin through these photos.

(b) Everything that is in the parental home and does not belong to another person is usually part of the estate. Taking items from the parental home without the written consent of the co-heirs is very risky. Dividing and taking inventory before all estate liabilities are settled is also risky. It could be seen as a division of the estate. And with that, every creditor could execute unlimited private property against every co-heirs.

(c) In this respect, the clearance of the property before or after sale or a foreclosure sale is an extremely sensitive issue. If you vacate the apartment yourself, the co-heirs can turn a rope on you. 

Perhaps the purchaser will tell you - with a tight deadline - that they will vacate the apartment free of charge if you waive all claims. After the deadline, he would hire a bailiff 2 weeks later.

You then have the option of agreeing to this, or if you believe the inventory exceeds the value of the eviction costs, let the bailiff take it. If the eviction by the bailiff still takes place more than 3/4 years later, you may be billed for the entire time as compensation for use. And this can get pretty intense.

And if you're unlucky, the valuables will have disappeared from the house in the meantime and the inventory will be assessed as worthless by the bailiff. So that you will also be billed in full for the clearance costs.

5. Possible data sharing/stacking, invading your environment to isolate you.

Even if the unauthorized disclosure of personal data is associated with high penalties, this is no guarantee that this will not happen.

It is sufficient if a single employee from health insurance or pension insurance informs the co-heirs of your current address. And then, as a pensioner, you are no longer safe from "persecution" by your co-heirs, even abroad. As a pensioner, you are insured in other European countries - unless you have previously worked abroad - through your German health insurance or the health insurance of your country of origin. And so, as a pensioner, you must always inform the health insurance and pension insurance of your current place of residence. This means that the co-heirs could determine your current place of residence for the rest of your life. 

You will rarely be able to prove that others have passed on your data to co-heirs without authorization. Especially if the information is only passed on orally.

In the past I hardly thought it possible that employees of banks, authorities, customer support, mail carriers or landlords would pass on data to third parties without authorization or allow themselves to be influenced by these third parties. And I had a lot of faith in that. Since the inheritance began, this trust has gradually fallen to zero, based on certain experience.

6. Risk factors regarding difficult community of heirs based on my personal experience and assessment

According to statistics, 20% of the communities of heirs are disputed. In this respect, you should not blindly trust your co-heirs. In my opinion, the following factors influence the risk that your inheritance will be disharmonious.

(a) How the parents interact with you and your siblings and in particular whether positive interaction was encouraged or not. Even if your siblings gossip about their parents' behavior, this is no guarantee that they will do better.

(b) if the community of heirs is large and the family of origin was difficult, this is particularly explosive.

(c) if parents are not transparent with their testamentary dispositions.

(d) The values ​​of your siblings and how they relate to other people can be an indication of what to expect when it comes to inheritance.

(e) Of course, also how your siblings dealt with you before the inheritance

(f) if one of the siblings has not contacted you for several years and you did not know their whereabouts and they have never commented, you should be cautious about trusting them.

(g) if some of the co-heirs were or are heavily in debt and as a result could not form an appropriate pension, this can be problematic in the inheritance, especially if other risk factors come into play.

(h) if siblings ask you questions about finances and personal contacts before the inheritance or after the inheritance has occurred

(i) if relatives who have not visited you for several decades visit you and question you shortly before or shortly after the inheritance occurs, alarm bells should ring for you.

(j) The same applies if your friends change and question you and pushy offer that if you have something to copy you can copy it from them. You should not trust these friends without further ado. And you cannot rule out the possibility that your – potential – co-heirs have a hand in this.

7. Trust and openness towards siblings or future co-heirs

Basic trust and openness are the basis of every close relationship, and in my opinion real personal relationships are not possible without them. On the other hand, the trust and openness shown can be misused. Especially when it comes to a lot of money, as is the case with many inheritances, the risk of this is very high. Here the right path between trust and openness, and restraint and caution is not always easy

(a) use good judgment when siblings encourage you to do tasks that are the responsibility of the official supervisor. You could twist a rope out of it.

(b) be very cautious about verbal consent only and do not accept ambiguous consent.

(c) don't put anything on your face that isn't right for you. Don't let yourself be pressured. And sleep through every decision.

(d) Do not let siblings, relatives or even friends question you about your financial circumstances, your other contacts or other very personal matters, especially shortly before and during the inheritance. And even if friends offer it, do not copy your documents from your friends.

II Recommendation for potential heirs

The best way to get through this is to have stable contacts/relationships or your own family where co-heirs cannot intrude and who stand by you. In this respect, you should be very cautious towards potential co-heirs in difficult relationships/circumstances with regard to the family of origin, as far as your other contacts/friendships are concerned. Otherwise, be reserved towards potential co-heirs when it comes to your personal affairs. And also consider that some who hear that you no longer inherit from yourself, but could be interested in your money.

Today I would no longer declare myself willing to take care of any matters for the community of heirs, but would refer to the possibility of estate administration. The resulting costs are low compared to a hereditary dispute. And even if the administrator of the estate is corrupt, that would – in my opinion – be the lesser evil. However, the administration of the estate requires the consent of the co-heirs.

III Recommendation for testators

if you don't want your children/heirs to tear each other apart after your death, arrange your affairs in a way that minimizes that risk.

1. Deposit your will with the probate court, and perhaps give a copy to all your children/heirs. This creates a maximum of transparency and prevents the will from not being found or only found later.

2. Make sure that none of your children/heirs have to settle any outstanding debts of the estate or other costs associated with the estate themselves without being able to access the estate.

3. Make sure that none of your children have to personally bear the costs of clearing your apartment.

4. The same applies to funeral expenses.

5. be as transparent as possible to all heirs in these matters.

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