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After the passing of a person, the crucial issue is who will be entitled to the Greek inheritance that the deceased has left, that is who will be called as his legal heir, according to the Greek Inheritance Law as this is determined by the relevant provisions of the Greek Civil Code.
This creates an enormous demand for information with regard to the Greek inheritance law, since most of those who claim property in Greece, are not familiar with the relevant provisions of the Greek Civil Code due to the fact that immovable property in Greece, is governed by the Greek Civil Law.
Greek Inheritance Law provides the bequest of the deceased's property to his legal heirs in two ways: by virtue of a will or in intestacy.
In case of a will.
In case that the deceased has left a Greek will, the bequest of the inherited property, i.e. the transfer of the property under the names of his heirs, appointed by the deceased, and to what property parts they are entitled to, is arranged according to the provisions of the Greek will. The law provides three types of Greek wills:
The holographic will; written entirely by the hand of the testator, who writes the date of the Will, and signs same, verifying its content.
The public will, which consists of the testator's last will and testament and is executed before a Notary Public under the presence of three witnesses.
The secret will. The testator delivers the document to the Notary Public, stating that the document consists of his last Will and testament, under the presence of three witnesses.
Upon the death of the testator, the Greek will has to be probated before the competent Court or before the competent Embassy or Consulate, in order for the Greek Will's content to become known to anyone. Every person holding a Greek will is obliged to take care of its probate. The Greek will is probated, only if the original document can be submitted before the competent Probate Court or Consulate, regardless of its validity. Copy of a missing will, cannot be probated, even if it is a certified copy of the will or a photocopy of same.
If the deceased left a will, it is needed the publication of the will of First Instance in Greece. If the will was written on the abroad country, it is first needed a publication of it, done at the abroad authorities , secondly the official translation, finally the inclusion in the Hellenic Court of First Instance (in Greece).
Therefore, even if the decedent was not a Greek and even if he/she left a will written under a foreign law, dealing also with property outside Greece, all inheritance and tax claims regarding immovable property (plots, lands, houses, apartments, buildings etc), that are located in Greece, will be decided according to the Greek Law provisions.
The translation of wills and other legal documents should be very attentive as about the legal terms of the law used by the abroad country, in order to avoid misinterpretations by the Greek authorities (eg Inland Revenue, Court, Notary) compared with the foreign law terms.
In case of no will.
In case that the deceased has not left a Greek will, or in case that the will has been nullified totally or partially, or in case that the will settles only a part of the deceased's Greek inheritance, the succession is settled by law (intestacy rules).
The relevant provisions of Greek Inheritance Law, determine the relatives of the deceased who will be called as his heirs. Succession in intestacy is based on the kinship with the deceased. Thus, the law has enlisted the relatives and therefore the legal heirs of the deceased in categories ("classes"). Relatives of previous classes exclude relatives of "next of kin" classes.
More specifically, according to Greek Inheritance Law, in the first class as heirs of the deceased are called his children, or their children in case that the latter have predeceased, as well as the surviving spouse of the deceased. In the second class, as heirs are called the parents and siblings of the deceased and if they have passed away before the deceased, their children and grandchildren, as well as the surviving spouse. In the third class, as heirs of the deceased are called his grandparents, as well as his surviving spouse. In case that none of the above exist, as legal heirs of the deceased (heirs of the fourth class) are called his great grand parents, as well as the surviving spouse of the deceased. Sole heir of the fifth class, the law names the surviving spouse, while, if none of the above exist, sole heir is the Greek State.
If there is no will, it is needed an official declaration of two witnesses as for the closest relatives of the deceased. This declaration of two witnesses, may be signed either at the Consulate or in Greece.
What about the property titles ?
The heir who lives abroad, should either has in his/her hands copies of the property or bank accounts that owned the deceased, or at least knows where the property is (or what are the any bank accounts in Greece).
If the heir does not keep the contracts, but knows the location about his/her property, then a lawyer in Greece should check for the existence of contracts at the local Land Registry office, or in the National Cadastre, registered by the name of the deceased or (very often) by the names of the whole family.
If in the property is included and cottage-townhouses, plots or parcels, then it is needed for each of them a site plan (diagram from a civil engineer) and it is absolutely necessary for a relative or a neighbor at least to indicate the property’s exact location. Often, the heirs as living abroad, do not know where are located their properties that have inherited.
Is there any deadline for accepting an inheritance ?
Greek Inheritance Law does not provide of a specific deadline for accepting an inheritance. On the contrary, the law provides a specific deadline for the renouncement of the Greek inheritance right on a deceased's Greek estate. This deadline expires within four (4) months upon the deceased's passing or after the Greek will's probate by the competent Court or Consulate. Said deadline expires a year after the deceased's passing or after the Will's probate, in case that the deceased's last domicile was abroad or if his heir became aware of the passing while he was residing abroad.
After the passing of the above deadlines for renouncement, it is conferred that the heir has accepted the estate and has substituted into the rights and obligations arising from the Greek Inheritance. The heir has the right to accept the Greek Estate by stating clearly that he accepts same, finalizing the Acceptance of Inheritance proceedings. However, in case that the Greek Inheritance consists of real estate property, the Acceptance of Inheritance is accomplished through the execution of an Acceptance of Inheritance Deed before a Notary Public, which has to be registered before the competent Greek Land Registry (Ypothikofilakeion) of the property's location and in some cases maybe the Greek Land Registry Cadastral (Ktimatologio) as well.
Are there any tax obligations ?
The heirs, (in intestacy or by virtue of a Will), must file an inheritance tax statement within 6 months, if Greece domiciled, or within 12 months, if they live abroad. The time limit for the submission of the tax statement in principle begins as of the passing; and/or the Greek will's probate date.
The inheritance tax obligation is subject to an assessment of the Estate's tax value in consideration of consanguinity levels to the deceased and applicable tax exemptions.
The inheritance tax, is not an obstacle for the heir to receive his/her share, because the tax is either not there (untaxed inheritances), or it is very small compared to the value of the inheritance received by the heir.
How Economou can help you accept your Greek inheritance ?
The procedure of the Probate and the Acceptance of an Greek Inheritance, may be accomplished through a Special Power of Attorney to a specialized Greek Lawyer. The beneficiary can sign a specific power of attorney “about the acceptance of his/her inheritance, at the Greek Consulate in the country of his/her residence, or at a Notary’s office (with Apostille) and encharge an attorney at law or a trusted relative in Greece, to sign all the documents necessary due to the Greek authorities, as for the transfer of property by the deceased to the heir (who lives abroad).
Our Greek law office is very sensitive to the need of international clients to claim their Greek inheritance.
We assist in Greek inheritance issues by tracing the property title anywhere in Greece; we investigate the legal and actual status; and provide a full legal analysis report.
The Greeks abroad can take their share of their inheritance, without even having to travel to Greece.
If later, the heir decides to sell his/her inheritance, then the specific power of attorney “about the acceptance of the inheritance”, will have to include a “sale order”, otherwise it must be done a new specific power of attorney.