Public mandate

The Central Register of Wills (Zentrales Testamentsregister; ZTR) is operated by the German Federal Chamber of Notaries “Bundesnotarkammer” as the public registry authority since 1 January 2012.

For this purpose, the Bundesnotarkammer was given a legal mandate in accordance with Section 78 (2) No. 2 Federal Code for Notaries (Bundesnotarordnung; BNotO). The ZTR is an electronic and automated register that serves to guarantee the right to inherit as enshrined constitutional law and to take regard of the testator’s will (Article 14 (1) German Constitution, the so-called “Grundgesetz; GG”).

The ZTR contains important information on wills, inheritance contracts and other documents relating to succession, taken into official safe custody in Germany. In this regard, especially Section 78 (2) No. 2 and Sections 78c et seq. BNotO as well as the Statutory Instrument on the Central Register of Wills (Testamentsregister-Verordnung; ZTRV) serve as legal basis.

The ZTR ensures that, in case of inheritance, all of the testator’s documents relating to succession are found, probated and transferred to the competent probate court. For each document relating to succession that is kept in official safe custody in Germany, the ZTR stores custodial information which is automatically made accessible upon death. You can download the form through which you can request information from the ZTR (hereinafter “the form”) here.

Register content

The ZTR registers custodial information on:
  • Wills authenticated by a notary
  • Handwritten wills and wills drawn up in urgency which are taken into official safe custody
  • Inheritance contracts
  • Other (notarial) documents which have an impact on the succession, e.g. marriage contracts, documents relating to a choice of law, contracts on the renunciation of testamentary gifts and inheritance or notarial declarations regarding the revocation from and the avoidance of disposition upon death.

Wills that are merely stored privately cannot be registered in the ZTR. These documents have to be delivered to the probate court in accordance with obligation in Section 2259 Civil Code (the so-called “Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch; BGB”).

However, the ZTR is not a depository institution. It solely records custodial information, which is necessary in order to find a document relating to succession reliably and promptly upon the testator’s death at the competent custodial institution (local court, notary, chamber of notaries). The custodial information includes the personal data of the testator, the name and address of the custodial institution and information on the type and date of the documents. The content of a document relating to succession is not recorded as custodial information, not even in typified form. The ZTR has actually no information as to the concrete content of a registered document.

Register request

The ZTR can be consulted electronically according to Section 78 (1) BNotO by German notaries and courts within the scope of their competences.

Furthermore, according to Section 78a (1) BNotO and Article 66 (5) EU Succession Regulation, the public registry authority provides the following foreign authorities with information held in the ZTR:

  • Foreign courts in the sense of Article 3 (2) EU Succession Regulation and foreign authorities competent to issue the European Certificate of Succession,
  • Notaries located in another Member State of the European Union with the exception of Denmark and Ireland.

You can download the form through which you can request information from the ZTR.

The form can be filled in electronically, all mandatory fields are marked with an asterisk (*). The completed form must be printed out and then signed and sealed by the court or notary. It must be sent by post to the postal address of the ZTR indicated on the form. The ZTR also sends its response to the request (positive or negative entry) to the applicant by post.

Information shall only be provided insofar as it is necessary with regard to the fulfilment of the functions of the courts or notaries. During the lifetime of the testator, information can only be requested with the testator’s consent.

Additionally, in accordance with Article 15 General Data Protection Regulation, anyone may request if and what kind of their personal data are processed by the Central Register of Wills.

The notification system in matters of succession

The notification system in matters of succession provides for a public procedure that serves to guarantee the right to inherit enshrined in Article 14 (1) GG and the respect of the testator’s will.

In the event of a person dying in Germany, the civil registry offices register the death with the local death register and, if necessary, issue death certificates. Furthermore, they transfer the information of the death on their own motion to the ZTR electronically without any further intervention by the concerned parties - this is the death notification according to Section 78e No. 1 BNotO.

The ZTR is only notified about a death that occurred in a foreign country, if the death certificate is subsequently authenticated in Germany upon request or if a corresponding remark is made in a German civil register. The national civil registry offices are in charge of processing the request.

Once the ZTR receives a death notification issued by a national civil registry office, the database of the ZTR is consulted with regard to any existing entries.

If an entry concerning the deceased person is found, the ZTR notifies the authority which keeps the documents relating to succession under official safe custody of its obligation to transfer these documents to the competent probate court.

In addition, the ZTR notifies the competent probate court whether and what kind of documents relating to succession have been found and will be transferred immediately by the authority holding the document in custody.

The custodial institution and the probate court inform the ZTR that they have sent and received the respective documents.

Thus, it is always known where a document relating to succession is stored.