German version below

Long story short: I am interested in buying a piece of land next to ours.

According to the official land register (Grundbuch), it belongs to two people, let's call them G and S.

Facts known about these people:

  • G: definitely dead (died some time in the 1990s in 1979)

    • had a husband (who died as well, after her) and four children
    • I have contact information for three of the children, but none for the fourth, who I'll call S
  • S:

    • seems to have fallen out with the other three siblings
    • has moved to Spain years ago
    • might have died there
    • was married when she moved to Spain
    • her husband ("H") might be dead or alive, and if both are dead, he might have died before or after her.
      • has died in 2019 and was divorced then.

Everything very complicated.

Despite of the land being covered with junk and essentially being worthless, I plan to buy that land because it would enhance out piece of land and, besides, in order to prevent that soemone else buys it. If it wouldn't be covered with junk, it would be worth about 1000 €, but cleaning up the junk will probably cost more than that.

But how can I find out whom to contact? What can I do to find out if S is still alive and where she lives?

Or better: How can I find out about the fourth, the heirs of the fourth, or evidence that the fourth share has passed to the three other owners?

I see the following options:

  • Contact the "inhabitants registry" (Einwohnermeldeamt) to find out what happened to S
  • Contact the inheritance court (Nachlassgericht)
  • to find out who inherited what when (if I even am entitled to get information about that)
  • maybe to get a "inheritance administrator" (Nachlassverwalter)?
  • hire a private investigator – this will probably too expensive. There is another issue about that land: because of the high trees on it (which we plan to remove as soon as we have the land), it poses a potential danger to our house we live in: if the trees fall in the wrong direction, our house might be in danger. So in any case, we might want (and need) to know who is responsible for this piece of land.


  • I have asked at the town's tax office. They are not allowed to give me that information, and are likely as well not allowed to do so if I put in a request by mail.

  • I also have asked at the "inhabitants registry", but only online. The system could not give me the requested information. But maybe I could do the request again in person.

  • As of 2022: everything has resolved. See my answer to be posted.

The whole stuff in German, because whoever is able to help me probably reads better German then English:

Ich habe Interesse, ein Grundstück neben unserem Grundstück zu kaufen.

Gemäß dem Grundbuch gehört es zwei Personen, die ich nun G und S nenne.

Was ich über diese weiß:

  • G:
    • starb in den 1990ern 1979 an einem Autounfall
    • hatte einen Ehemann (Ende der 1990er ebenfalls verstorben) und vier Kinder
    • ich kann wohl drei der vier Kinder erreichen, aber nicht das vierte, nennen wir es S
  • S:
    • hat wohl keinen Kontakt zu den anderen
    • verzog vor Jahren nach Spanien
    • könnte dort verstorben sein
    • war zum Zeitpunkt des Umzugs verheiratet
    • ihr Ehemann ("H") könnte noch leben oder ebenfalls verstorben sein, und falls beide verstorben sind, ist die Reihenfolge des Todes für die Frage evtl. auch relevant, jedoch unbekannt.
      • verstarb 2019.

Alles sehr kompliziert.

Obwohl das Grundstück total zugemüllt und daher "netto wertlos" ist, habe ich vor, es zu kaufen, da es gut zu unserem Stück passen würde, und um zu verhindern, dass evtl. jemand anders kauft. Wäre es nicht zugemüllt, wäre es wohl etwa 1000 € wert, aber es zu entmüllen wäre sicherlich teurer als das.

Aber wie finde ich heraus, wen ich diesbezüglich kontaktieren muss? Was kann ich tun, um mehr über S herauszufinden?

Oder besser: Wie kann ich S finden, ihre Erben oder Gewissheit darüber, dass ihr Anteil an die anderen drei Eigentümer übergegangen ist?

Ich sehe die folgenden Optionen:

  • Über das Einwohnermeldeamt herausfinden, was mit S geschehen ist
  • Das Nachlassgericht kontaktieren, um
  • herauszufinden, wer was wann von wem geerbt hat (falls ich überhapt berechtigt bin, diese Information zu erhalten)
  • möglicherweise einen Nachlassverwalter einsetzen zu lassen, der einen eventuellen Verkauf regeln könnte
  • einen Privatdetektiv anheuern – das wird aber vermutlich zu teuer.

Es gibt einen weiteren Punkt: aufgrund des Baumbewuchses (den wir beseitigen werden, sobald wir dürfen) stellt es eine potentielle Gefahr für unser Haus dar: die Bäume sind so groß, dass sie auf unser Haus fallen könnten. Dies wäre daher ein weiterer Grund, weshalb wir herausfinden wollen und müssen, wer für das Grundstück verantwortlich ist.


  • Ich habe bei der Stadtkasse nachgefragt, wer die Grundsteuer für das Grundstück bezahle. Leider durfte man mir diese Information nicht geben, und stellten mir in Aussicht, dass auch eine schriftliche Anfrage daran nichts ändern werde.

  • Ich habe auch eine Melderegisteranfrage getätigt, jedoch nur online. Das System konnte mir die erbetenen Informationen nicht bereitstellen. Möglicherweise könnte ich die Anfrage jedoch persönlich (vor Ort) wiederholen.

  • 2022: Alles hat sich geklärt. Ich werde eine Antwort posten.

  • 2
    What about S's three siblings?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:21
  • @phoog They have been in a bad mood with S since beforeshe disappeared/emigrated. My next steps would be to get in touch with all of them (with one of them I already got in contact). But as far as I know, none of them knows anything about S.
    – glglgl
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:28
  • 5
    So it seems that three out of four owners of the land are willing to sell it to you, and you're trying to find the fourth, the heirs of the fourth, or evidence that the fourth share has passed to the three other owners; is that correct?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:35
  • 3
    I was puzzled by your use of the word "beneath", but the German version cleared that up. You chose the wrong preposition. "near" or "beside" or "next to" would be better. dict.leo.org/german-english/beneath Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 17:26
  • 2
    IMO “Stadtkasse” translates to “city treasury”, not “tax office”. Tax office would be the Finanzamt, a state authority.
    – erebus
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


Finding S seems to be hard and I have not much hope, if her siblings cannot provide any information. I think the "inhabitants registry" (Einwohnermeldeamt) is not allowed to give you her first address in Spain ("Zuzugsanschrift im Ausland") (§§ 44 and 45 Bundesmeldegesetz (BMG)).

The best option I see is a court auction (Zwangsversteigerung), more precise a "Teilungsversteigerung". If one of S's siblings want money for the land, he can ask for a court auction at the local court (Amtsgericht). The court will get S's first address in Spain (§ 34 BMG) and if it cannot deliver its letter to S, there will be a "public delivery" (öffentliche Zustellung) through a posting in court. It would take a while, but in the end the land could be yours.

Be prepared that the cost for the court auction will be much higher than the 1000€. If you plan to take this way, ask a lawyer for detailed advice. Also you need one of S's siblings to participate in the process.

If the trees are really a danger for your house, the heirs could also have an obligation to remove them. Maybe this could help you too.

  • Thank you for your answer. So far, I have been able to follow that person via the means of chained queries to the respective Einwohnermeldeämter of some municipalities she has been living in (so far, I have sent the third query in the hope the chain will eventually end). The idea with the auction might be a good approach; I'll have to see if the person I have contact with would agree to that.
    – glglgl
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 14:41
  • The problem is, however, that the Grundbuch still contains the names of the mother of the four siblings. I don't know if (and how) it has to be corrected first. Maybe I really should ask a lawyer.
    – glglgl
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 14:45
  • Correction of the Grundbuch is not required at least for the Teilungsversteigerung (§§ 17 III and 181 Gesetz über die Zwangsversteigerung und die Zwangsverwaltung).
    – K-HB
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 14:50
  • 1
    re obligation to remove trees: IANAL but if the siblings jointly inherited the land (or their mother’s share of it), they would form a common-law partnership (Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts). As such, they would be jointly liable: all claims against the society can be brought forward in full against any single member. So you might not get S’s address that way: you could approach any of her three siblings about the trees if you have valid legal grounds to demand their removal.
    – user149408
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 19:23
  • 2
    @K-HB correct, but as per § 2058 BGB they would nonetheless be jointly liable. Assuming that OP could approach any of S’s three siblings about the trees, it would be difficult for OP to argue that they need to get hold of S specifically and thus need her address.
    – user149408
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 11:13

To buy the land, you need agreement from the current owners and the burden is on you to find them. There is no way to know in advance exactly what that might require. You suggest a couple of possibilities, which may or may not work, but there could be other steps that need to be taken.

If there are no heirs for some reason (e.g. all surviving heirs were specifically disinherited or failed to survive and had no heirs themselves), the property would escheat to the government (i.e. become government property). But, there has been no determination that this has happened yet, because the Grundbuch would reflect that fact if it had. Still, if you do your search and there are no heirs, it means you lose, not you win.

You might need a private investigator, although there is a sub-speciality of investigator, "heir finders" who might be cheaper or offer terms to pay only if they get results.

If the property has not been sold for failure to pay a municipal real property tax (if it is subject to one) then somebody must be paying that tax. Figuring out who is getting the real property tax bills and paying them may be the most practical clue to finding the owner.

  • Thank you for your answer. If there are no heirs, and the land belongs to the government, I might be able to buy it from them, so it doesn't mean necessarily I lose. The last point about the municipal tax might be a valid approach (but it is considered farmland, so it might be that there are no taxes due, but I will have to investigate again). Thank you for the hint in that direction!
    – glglgl
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 7:20
  • I have asked at the town's tax office. They are not allowed to give me that information, and are likely as well not allowed to do so if I put in a request by mail.
    – glglgl
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:55
  • 1
    Unfortunate. In the U.S. that is routinely available. But, I guess German views of issues like privacy are different.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    @ohwilleke they are indeed. Have you ever tried to use Google's Street View in Germany? Similarly, I recently found that Lufthansa will not give out tracking information about misdirected checked luggage, apparently in contrast to US airlines.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 17:04
  • 1
    @ohwilleke That may have something to do with a Head of Government (among others) who grew up under the Stasi, and a whole load of pensioners who grew up under the Gestapo. The Germans take privacy very seriously. Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 16:01

Everything has now cleared up:

  • S died and left a will
  • We bought S's half of the plot from her heirs (resp. are in the process of doing so)
  • G is still in the Grundbuch as owner of the other half of the plot; her heirs cannot be reached as a whole.
  • Our goal to be able to use the plot without having to fear that we are chased away is now reached.

In German:

  • S starb und hinerließ ein Testament
  • wir kauften ihre Hälfte der Bruchteilsgemeinschaft (bzw. sind gerade dabei, dies zu tun)
  • die andere Hälfte ist noch immer auf G eingetragen; ihre Erbengemeinschaft ist auch weiterhin nicht beschlussfähig, um es mal so zu nennen. (In einer Gesamthandsgemeinschaft können keine Bruchteile verkauft werden.)
  • Unser Ziel, das Land nutzen zu dürfen, ist mit dem Erwerb des halben Grundstückes erreicht.
    • (Theoretisch dürften wir es als Ganzes nur mit Zustimmung der Erbengemeinschaft nach G nutzen, der die andere Hälfte gehört, aber dass wir von dieser Seite Probleme bekommen, sehen wir als ausgeschlossen an.)

Three thoughts in addition to @K-HB's and @ohwilleke's answers:

  • From a practical point of view: you putting much further effort into searching for S doesn't make sense unless you know that the other 3 are willing to sell (or to lease Pacht/Erbpacht - if that's also an option for you): that's the only scenario where you need to get in contact with S.

  • Stadtkasse (or any other tax office) AFAIK cannot reveal private information about others to you. After all, the purpose of the Grundbuch is to provide the public record of relevant information about landowners.
    But: they may forward your contact request to whoever gets the property tax letter (this would not violate privacy, but it is entirely up to the goodwill of the officer and possibly administrative rules that still say this is not done). Chances are anyways that it's one of the 3 you already know who receives the tax statement on behalf of all of them. You could also ask the Einwohnermeldeamt whether they'd forward your letter.

  • Einwohnermeldeamt (inhabitant registry).

    According to Wikipedia online requests typically work only for people who have been registered at that local registry within the last 5 years, so not getting information here should probably not be too surprising. After that, the records move to an archive for another few decades, then they are really deleted. Information requests to the archive are a totally offline procedure.

    From the privacy point of view, I'd expect that the relatives/co-owners may have better standing in requesting information at the Einwohnermeldeamt about S due to legitimate interest: you are an entirely unrelated 3rd party as far at that office is concerned, so you can only get the type of information that anyone can get, but I don't know where exactly the line is drawn.

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