Thinking about death can be an unpleasant topic for most people, but it is undeniably a part of life, and the sooner you face the fact and prepare your inheritance the better it would be for those you leave behind. If you own any immovable property in the Republic of Cyprus, irrespective of your nationality or permanent residence, it would be wise to make a Will in Cyprus for your estate. You can save your loved ones much time and trouble by drafting your Will and specifying your wishes clearly and in accordance with the law.
The Law of Succession in Cyprus
Cyprus has adopted the “forced heirship” regime, which means that there is no absolute testamentary freedom in inheriting one’s estate. The Wills and Successions Law Cap. 195 distinguishes between the ‘statutory portions’ and the ‘disposable portions’ of a testator’s estate. The former refers to the portions of the estate which are disposed by default to the closest relatives the deceased left behind, namely the spouse and children, while the latter represents the rest of the estate the testator can distribute freely. An exception to this rule applies to anyone who was born in the United Kingdom or another Commonwealth country, giving them testamentary freedom to distribute the whole of their estate as they please.
A significant role in dealing with succession plays the domicile of the deceased. The term ‘domicile’ refers to the permanent residence of a person either by origin or by choice. The law goes beyond the definition of permanent residence when interpreting the meaning of ‘domicile’ to explain that domicile is for someone who evidently intends to spend the rest of their life in the Republic of Cyprus.
Ever since the introduction of the EU Regulation 650/2012, cross-borders successions have become rather easier since, according to the regulation, a person can select the jurisdiction of their origin country to be applied to deal with inheritance and Will matters. This must be explicitly mentioned in the Will, otherwise the law of the country the deceased person is based will have jurisdiction over the distribution of their estate.
On the other end of the line, any beneficiaries of an estate can apply for a “European Certificate of Successions’’ under the 650/2012 regulation, which allows them to prove in another EU member-state that they are heirs, legatees, executors or administrators of the Will.
In the best-case scenario, you have created a Cypriot Will in which you specify how you wish to distribute your estate. The Wills and Succession Law Cap. 195 states that a person of over 18 years old with a sound mind has the legal capacity to draft a valid Will. Furthermore, section 23 of Cap. 195 underlines the requirements which must be met for a Will to be valid, regarding witnesses, signatures, content and registration. In the face of a valid Will, the estate of the deceased will be distributed as desired and in accordance with the provisions of Cap. 195 and the Administration of Estates Law Cap. 189.
Regardless of the nationality of the deceased, any immovable property owned by them is dealt with in accordance with Cypriot law. On the contrary, all movable property, such as money or cars, is governed by the laws of the country the deceased had as their domicile. The estate of the deceased is administered by the executor who is evidently specified in the will. The appointed executor applies for a grant of probate. If such a person does not exist in the will, then the court appoints an administrator through letters of administration.
When a person has conducted a Will in a foreign country it may be considered valid in Cyprus, as long as it complies with the formalities required in section 23 of Cap. 195. Additionally, a Will can also be accepted as valid if it is executed according to the conditions of the Hague Convention. When a person has conducted a valid Will under their jurisdiction, then the Will can be re-sealed in a Cypriot court to be given effect. The need to re-seal a grant of probate or letters of administration emerges when the deceased was not domiciled in Cyprus but owned immovable property there at the time of death.
This procedure can be shortened when probate was granted for the Will in question by a court of a Commonwealth country. In such case, the probate can be re-sealed before a Cyprus court without enquiring further into the validity of the Will, and the court can go ahead and appoint an administrator to administer the estate of the testator. When the probate has been issued by a country outside of the Commonwealth, then a new grant must be obtained by a Cypriot court. It is worth noting, and recommended by legal advisors, that when people draft a valid Will in Cyprus, the re-sealing process is omitted.
Michael Chambers and Co. LLC are a legal firm of Cyprus lawyers that can offer professional advice on Probate Law and wills matters for Cypriot and non Cypriot individuals of any nationality.
When there is no Will, conducted either in Cyprus or any other country in the world, then the immovable property of the deceased is distributed according to the intestacy rules of Cyprus law. The court grants a letter of administration to an individual, named the administrator, in order to administer the estate of the deceased.
Letters of Administration
When there is a Will specifying the executor of the deceased’s estate then this person can apply for a grant of probate. Alternatively, when there is no Will or no person is appointed in an existing Will, then a close relative of the deceased, such as the spouse or children, applies for the letter of administration. It is common for the relatives to appoint a lawyer responsible for applying to the court for the letter of administration.
The intended administrator, either a relative or a lawyer, must file to the court the application along with other documents, such as the death certificate, a certificate of heirs. Additionally, if probate has been granted in another country, then the administrator must include in the application true copies of either the grant of the probate and the Will or the grant of letters of administration.
After the letters of administration have been obtained, the administrator collects all the information about the assets and liabilities of the deceased’s estate and informs the court accordingly through filing statements. Any pending taxes due to the authorities, such as income tax or tax for immovable property must be paid by the administrator to obtain discharge from the tax authorities, before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
On completion of the administration, the administrator must file to the court specific documents, namely final accounts of their administration and a declaration by the foreign executor or administrator (if they exist) that the administration in Cyprus was carried out to that administrator’s satisfaction.
Under the Cyprus law, there is no inheritance tax, as the Estate Duty (Amending) Law 2000 has been abolished. However, testators may be liable to pay inheritance tax in their country if the domicile is not in Cyprus. Positively, the law has introduced regulations which makes succession and inheritance procedures much simpler than before. Testators with immovable property are highly advised to make a distinctive Cypriot Will when they have their domicile in another country. Nevertheless, their property is subjected to the regulations and legal rules of Cyprus, thus it is possible to distribute their estate even without the existence of a Will.
For your own ease, you are always recommended to consult a Cyprus Lawyer to clarify such matters.
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