What's up with German contracts? Are estimates meaningless?

6 posts in this topic

I moved to Berlin three years ago, and every time I have to do something official -- buy property, get married -- it costs me a fortune. Everyone from translators to tax consultants charge 100 euros per hour minimum.

 

Since I can't avoid them entirely, it would help if I could understand what's going on. There are two contracts in particular I'm wondering about.

 

1. My husband filed a prenup when we got married, and now he wants to nullify it. In America we'd simply tear up the paper. In Germany evidently you need someone expensive to write up a paper that nullifies the contract, and their bill is calculated FROM YOUR ENTIRE NET WORTH. What the hell is up with that?

 

2. I found a tax firm that estimated my German income taxes at 750 euros and my U.S. taxes at 750 euros. Under that, the contract says the price would go up if they needed to represent me in court, etc. They didn't represent me in court, etc., so I expected a 1,500 euro bill, but it totals 5000 euros WITHOUT VAT. In America, again, a businessperson can't exceed the estimate beyond a certain amount. In Germany are they just establishing a minimum that you will pay, with no ceiling?

 

I emailed them asking about this. I think they'll lower the bill but I still need to know what's going on.

 

Since Germany is so weird legally, I'll tack on a disclaimer: In asking these questions, I am not giving anyone permission to charge me for an answer and I am not agreeing that I will pay anyone for their information or advice.

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This mentions handymen but I think the same would apply: 

https://www.finanztip.de/kostenvoranschlag-handwerkerrechnung/

 

It says that an estimate is just that, an estimate and is not binding. However, if the cost is going to be considerably higher than the estimate, like 10 to 20% higher, they have a duty to inform you before continuing with the work.

 

I've had similar things happen in the past and I discussed it and in both cases got them to lower the bill. 

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1 hour ago, RomanH said:

My husband filed a prenup when we got married, and now he wants to nullify it. In America we'd simply tear up the paper.

 

No you wouldn't. It would still be on file with the lawyer who wrote it and if things went tits up, it would still be legal. You would have to pay the lawyer to make it null and void. 

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Thank you, LeonG. I was hoping there was some sort of maximum that a company could charge more than an estimate and that looks true by your link. Still haven't heard back from the tax preparers though.

 

Fraufruit, I meant tear up every copy of the contract, including the one with the lawyer, who I'm assuming wouldn't charge you a tear-up fee based on your net worth. I believe the difference here is that in America lawyers hold onto contracts while in Germany they are filed with the government, which means they're harder to cancel.

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