Germany as a state has its own jurisdiction regarding the inheritance of property. There are two main approaches in this issue. There could be a case of a German citizen residing in another country and he happens to die while owning property in the said country. Such situations would first give preference to the inheritance laws of the resident country and the German inheritance law would only be incorporated if the laws of the residence country give provisions for such a possibility. In most cases if a person dies ad leaves behind some property any where in the world, the laws of the land where the property is situated automatically prevails unless there is some recognized legislation that dictates otherwise from the country where the property exists.
The spouse versus the matrimonial regime.
Away from foreign owned property, let's get back home to the German laws on inheritance. If a person dies and leaves behind property within the borders of Germany, the laws of Germany will supersede any other laws even if the deceased was a foreigner. In a much closer to home scenario, if the deceased has a spouse and other dependants left behind, the German law will give first preference to the descendants and the spouse. It is however not automatic as many would think that the spouse will get preference incase there is no written documentation to that effect. There exists the German matrimonial property regime which is a sort of community within which the couple lived. This regime will get automatic preference unless the deceased has left some documented evidence against such assumptions.
The chain of command of the inheritors would go further incase there are no kids left and no written documentation awarding the deceased's estate to the spouse. In such a situation, the German statutory matrimonial regime would get preference unless the spouses had agreed otherwise.
What comprises a written will in Germany?
The German law only acknowledges hand written testaments or notarial recorded testaments as valid. Another rare aspect of the German inheritance law is the rejection of winessed testaments which are commonly acceptable in most English speaking countries. Under certain circumstances however the German law may acknowledge such testaments. This is only in cases where the testators are of foreign nationality and the testaments they give are compliant with the jurisdictions of their foreign countries. Other exemplary situations are those that may involve a will that was drafted in a foreign country and within the lawful jurisdictions of the countries in question.
In the unlikely event that a deceased deliberately disinherits his spouse or close blood relatives in a will, then the German inheritance law has a law that guarantees the spouse and /or children half of what would have been rightfully their s if the will had not disinherited them. This law substantially protects estranged wives and their siblings. This share is usually referred to as the compulsory portion.