You do not live in Greece and you learn that you are entitled to an inheritance in this country. What are the steps you need to take in order to claim your share?
The first thing that must be done is to get legal advice by a lawyer in Greece, so you are informed about your rights and how to exercise them. You will find out whether you inherit the entire estate (100%) or a share of it. Also, you will learn what information and documents from your end are required, so that the part of the inheritance that you are entitled to becomes your property.
The lawyer in Greece will ask you questions about the next of kin of the deceased. It is vital under Greek inheritance law to establish who are the close blood relatives, their names (first and last name, as well as their father and mother name, if you know them), and their exact relation to the deceased.
Another important matter is whether the deceased has left a will or not. If there is a will, we must know if it was drawn up in Greece, or in another country. Also, we must find out if the will is trusted with a notary or an attorney, or if it is a so called holographic will, (a piece of handwritten paper), which is kept by a relative, a friend, or it is simply found in the house where the deceased lived or elsewhere.
If a will exists, normally it will have to be probated. If it was drawn up outside of Greece, it has first to be probated at the country where it was drawn up and then it will also be probated in Greece.
If there is no will, the intestate succession takes place and we must work with the next of kin. Depending on whether the deceased had the Greek citizenship or not, we will found out who are the heirs who inherit intestate, meaning without a will.
The heir must also know where the deceased passed away, so we obtain the death certificate. If he/she does not know, the lawyer will help.
A matter of great importance is the number and type of assets of the estate, where they are located and if the heir keeps any deeds about the real estate properties, or other information about bank account numbers etc.
If the heir does not have a lot of information about this, the lawyer will act to search for assets, but the heir must give at least some clues, especially about the specific area or areas of Greece where assets may be located. If we know the place where the properties are located, even if we do not have any deeds or other documents which describe the titles, everything can be found at the local cadaster, as long as we know the name, last name and preferably, the father name of the deceased. It must be noted that all legal and commercial deeds and acts in Greece require not only the name (first and last), but also the parents’ names of the persons involved in the transactions.
Sometimes we may have to make a title search not in the name of the deceased, but in the name of his parents, or even uncles, aunts or other relatives, in case title had not officially passed to the deceased and the titles are still in the names of his parents, grandparents or other relatives. In such a case, it will be a double or even triple inheritance succession, for example from the grandmother to her son (deceased) and then to the spouse and children of the son, who are now the present heirs.
Under Greek law, apart from the death certificate, which if not issued in Greece, is officially obtained from the country of issue, translated and registered in Greece, we also have to issue from a GreekMunicipality the certificate of next of kin. This is issued only in case the deceased had the Greek citizenship and we know where in Greece he/she was registered. The same applies even if the deceased had the Greek, as well as another citizenship.
To issue the certificate of next of kin, two witnesses are required to sign an affidavit stating the names of the close blood relatives. One of the two witnesses can be one of the heirs.
If the deceased was not a Greek citizen, a legal opinion by a lawyer or a jurist from the country of the deceased’s citizenship must be obtained, to advise on the intestate laws of that country, particularly if there is no will.
Once type and number of assets, the next of kin and the inheritance shares are established, the lawyer must draft documents to file the estate to the tax office, unless the deceased has died before 1995, in which case the heirs do not pay any inheritance tax at all, irrespective of the value of the estate.
Finally, the heirs, in person, or through their attorney, sign the deed of acceptance of inheritance at the notary, which subsequently is registered with the local cadaster(s), so the real estate assets become personal property of the heirs. If the heirs cannot stay in Greece during the weeks or months which are necessary to complete the paperwork, they sign a power of attorney (POA), to empower their lawyer to sign everything as if they were present inGreece.
If the estate includes bank accounts, instead of the deed at the notary, the heirs may have to obtain a court ruling, called Klironomitirio, to order the bank to release to them the balance of the account(s).
*Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at
the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.
e-mail: [email protected]