Civil partnerships / Lebenspartnerschaften

The Civil Partnerships Act came into force in the UK on December 5 – after a period of notice, the first ceremonies will take place in England and Wales on December 21, and in Scotland on December 20. (The Guardian). This is not a marriage, but it contains most of the rights associated with marriage. Another Guardian article:

bq. Gay couples who register as civil partners will take on the obligation to support each other financially, even after the relationship ends. To split, they will have to go through a “divorce” process, with the courts dividing up the assets regardless of ownership if they fail to reach a settlement. They will be exempt from inheritance tax when the first partner dies, and will have the same pension rights as married couples.

Statutory heir / Gesetzlicher Erbe 3

To sum up: in German law, there are Erben whether a person made a will or not. (Gesetzliche Erbfolgegewillkürte Erbfolge) So sometimes the term gesetzlicher Erbe needs to be translated. What do you do, when it really matters?

Strictly speaking, statutory heir or heir on intestacy is almost too much of a good thing, since in common-law systems the word heir implies that there was no will.

I had to translate this and asked a number of other legal translators which they liked. The most popular answer was ‘I don’t know much about inheritance law’.

I wanted to use the term intestacy, but I’m told statutory heir is normal usage in the USA. I did eventually get a lot of information from one US legal translator, who shall be nameless unless he would prefer to be outed. He suggested Google searches on
“statutory heirs” “uniform probate code”
Other ways of getting US sites are site:edu and site:us

I have to repeat that the word heirs is not used in English law at all. Hence comparing results for heirs on intestacy might be misleading. I also reject the suggestion of intestate heir, because it sounds to me as if the heir has neglected to make a will, which may or may not be true. But this term too is encountered on US sites. Heir on intestacy is comprehensible in the US, but sounds a bit odd, according to my informant (but I regard it as an advantage if a translation relating to German law sounds a bit un-American – I wouldn’t want people to think it referred to American law).

Finally, I looked at Tony Weir’s translation in German Private and Commercial Law. An Introduction, by Horn, Kötz and Leser – 1982 but still the best. It has a heading Statutory Intestate Succession! Michael Jewell’s translation of Gerhard Robbers, An Introduction to German Law, refers to beneficiaries on intestacy, and when it comes to distinguishing Erbe and Vermächtnisnehmer, it has residuary beneficiary and specific beneficiary.

Statutory heir / gesetzlicher Erbe 2

Here is the vocabulary used nowadays for those who inherit:

Testament: Erbe, Vermächtnisnehmer
Gesetzliche Erbfolge: Erbe

Will: beneficiary
Intestate succession: beneficiary

Will: beneficiary (devisee: of real estate, legatee: of personal property)
Intestate succession: heir (or real estate)
distributee / next of kin (of personal property)

In both EN and USA: devise: a gift of real property
legacy / bequest: a gift of personal property
gift: either real or personal property

You can draw a little table with this information, but it doesn’t mean you can translate Erbe as beneficiary or Vermächtnisnehmer as legatee.

Note the distinction in EN and USA law between real property and personal property

Mark Reutlinger: Wills, Trusts, and Estates. Essential Terms and Concepts – on US law of succession

Still not finished …

Heir on intestacy / Statutory heir / Gesetzlicher Erbe

Some problems here:

In US law, there is an heir

bq. Gifis: heirs: strictly, those whom statutory law would appoint to inherit an estate should the ancestor die without a will. Synonyms: heirs at law, rightful heir, legal heirs. The term is often applied indiscriminately to those who inherit by will or deed as well as by operation of law.

In English law, there has been no heir since 1927 – only beneficiaries.

bq. Oxford Law Dictionary: heir: before 1926, the person entitled under common law and statutory rules to inherit the freehold land of one who died intestate.

In everyday English, the term may be understood to mean the person who inherits on intestacy. There is an heir to the throne, who automatically inherits the throne in a similar way to the German manner of succession – see below.

But under the common law, originally, a testator could exclude anyone from succession by will. All kinds of devices have been introduced to protect spouses, children, and dependants from being disinherited, but still, there is no heir under a will.

BUT in German law, the Erbe (a word related to heir), singular or plural, exists whether there is a will or not. You could say that this is because you can’t exclude your heirs.

bq. Alpmann-Brockhaus Erbe: jede erbfähige (Erbfähigkeit) natürliche oder juristische Person, auf die mit dem Tod des Erblassers das Vermögen kraft Gesetzes oder kraft Verfügung des Erblassers als Ganzes übergeht, und die in dessen gesamte Rechts- und Pflichtenstellung eintritt (Gesamtrechtsnachfolge). Der Erbe wird damit Eigentümer der Nachlassgegenstände, Gläubiger der Nachlassforderungen und Schuldner der Nachlassverbindlichkeiten. Der Erbe ist vom Vermächtnisnehmer zu unterscheiden, der gegen den Beschwerten nur einen schuldrechtlichen Anspruch auf die entsprechende Leistung hat (§2174 BGB).
© Alpmann Brockhaus Fachlexikon Recht, 2004 [CD-ROM].

(Not quite as good as Creifelds, but much better software, and runs together with the Muret-Sanders e-Großwörterbuch)
To be continued…

Times Literary Supplement

I thought the TLS was above typos:

bq. It would be possible to have a system of criminal law which merely prescribed all “anti-social conduct”, of whatever label we felt it appropriate to identify behaviour meriting state punishment, and left it to the courts to decide both what counted as “anti-social conduct” and what if any punishment should be imposed. In such a system there would be only one crime.

(On Louis Blom-Cooper and Terence Morris, With Malice Aforethought. TLS November 18 2005)

Still, a subscription often tempts me, with the possibility of having access to the whole online archive… but when would one have time to read it?)