There is still a glimmer of hope for Raimund Wilhelmi. The 66-year old head of the healthcare firm Fastenklinik Buchinger, which runs therapeutic fasting clinics in Baden-Württemburg and Marbella, Spain, is still hesitating whether to go ahead and hand over his company to his two sons. He intends to carefully follow the debates on inheritance law which begin this Friday in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.
“I really hope that economic common-sense prevails. If not, I don’t have much time left,” he said. He’s in a tight spot – his sons both want to work for the company, but not for another few years.
Business owners like Mr. Wilhelmi want to decide for themselves when to hand over the reins to their children. But German lawmakers may soon put limits on their freedom of action.
Parliamentarians are responding to a decision last year by the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the German Constitutional Court, which will usher in changes as soon as December and as late as next summer on how inheritance tax is handled.
One thing is clear – for large family-owned German companies, inheritance is about to get a whole lot trickier. And in many cases, much more expensive, too.
The constitutional court ruling has set off a last-minute rush among family businesses. “It is important for us that the equity stays in the family. Before the end of the year, we’ll arrange things so it does,” said one businessman, who preferred to remain anonymous.