Greek Inheritance Law

The Greek Inheritance Law is regulated by the Greek Civil Code, Art. 1710 – 2035.

A deceased person can decide what will become of his property by leaving a will, which can be entirely handwritten by him personally, or executed before a public notary under the presence of three witnesses. The law provides also for a third kind of will, called a secret will, where the testator hands the will to the notary public, and the latter is obliged to seal and keep it until the testator’s demise.

If a will is not found, the law regulates the inheritance succession under intestacy as follows:

1.

 

Husband/wife and children

2.

 

Husband/wife, parents and brothers/sisters

3.

 

Husband/wife, grandparents, their children and grandchildren

4.

 

Husband/wife and great-grandparents

5.

 

Husband/wife

6.

 

The State

     

Children, parents and husband/wife cannot be excluded completely from their inheritance rights by virtue of a Will ("forced share" right holders), except in very specific circumstances (for example, if they threatened the life of the deceased).

Although, for a U.S resident or citizen (which is the typical Greek-American) who inherits property in Greece, there are critical questions that must be analyzed and important issues of law which must be examined. 

Under its second chapter (“Private international law”), the Greek Civil Code (GCC) provides (art. 28) that issues arising from inheritance are governed by the law of the deceased person’s nationality at the time of death.

If the foreign decedent’s national law says that the applicable law in substantive inheritance issues is that of the country where the property is located (e.g. the laws of Greece) then the competent court, whether in Greece or not, should apply the inheritance rules set out in the GCC (arts 1865 – 2035, GCC).

In such cases, the inheritance laws of the foreigner shall be applied by the court to dispose of the estate, since issues arising from inheritance are effectively governed by the law of the deceased’s nationality, and are distinct from the legal requirements regarding the technicalities of transfer of property ownership in Greek jurisdictions.

Consequently, a foreigner is able to dispose of his/her property in Greece after death without the restrictions (e.g. forced heirship) that apply to Greek citizens, provided that this is acceptable under his/her national law.

The only case where Greek rules of inheritance should apply automatically to the estate of a deceased foreigner is if he/she also had dual Greek citizenship.

The GCC provides (art. 27) that property rights, including possession rights of immovable property, are governed by the lex rei sitae, i.e. by the law of the State where the property is situated. The same law applies to property contracts and other juridical acts which create, convey, modify or reduce property rights (art. 12, GCC). However, it should be stressed that these are procedural rather than substantive matters, and do not undermine the general rule that foreigners’ inheritance issues, involving property situated in Greece, are essentially governed by the law of the decedent’s nationality.

The GCC (arts. 14-15) provides that the rights of spouses are subject, in order of priority, to the law of (a) their last common nationality or (b) their last common habitual country of residence or (c) the country to which they are most closely connected.

The Single-Member Court of First Instance (Monomeles Protodikeio) is competent for most inheritance issues especially those relating to probate proceedings. This Court is also competent for declaring foreign probates and inheritance rulings enforceable in Greece. Whether an applicant is a foreigner makes no difference to the competence of the Court; however, in the case of a non-resident foreigner, geographical competence falls upon the Single-Member Court of First Instance in Athens.

Non-contested inheritance cases typically take between six months to a year.

Whether the deceased left a Will or not is very important in order to establish the rights of the heirs. If a Will is found, it must be probated at the country where it was drafted. If it was drafted outside of Greece, the Will must be probated at the country where it was executed and subsequently a certified and possibly Apostilled copy of it, will also be probated in Greece. Each country has its own probation rules and in some cases a Will does not even have to be probated in the foreign country, if the value of the estate is below a certain limit. Once we are certain on how the Will is probated or validated in the foreign country, we will make it valid in Greece, as well.

The next part of information required is the identification of the assets of the estate in Greece. Assets may be real estate property (houses, apartments, plots, lots, lands), movables, cars, boats, bank accounts etc. As far as immovable property is concerned, the Greek legal advisor will ideally need photocopies of the deeds of the properties included in the estate. If they are not available, deeds can be retrieved from the local land registry, as long as we know the place where the properties are located.

If the heir does not know even the area where the properties are located it may be diffcult to find the deeds, since there is no national land registry for the entire Greece, although there are ways to locate the properties, even if we have no clue where in Greece the deceased owned properties.

If the assets include bank accounts, it will be helpfull to have the bank booklet or the bank account number, but if we don't have them, one way or the other we will be able to obtain that information. If the balance of the bank accounts is above a certain level, the Greek banks will require a court decision to proclaim the heirs and their share, before the banks release the funds to the heirs.

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Iliana – Kalliopi Kokotini was born in 1989 in Athens, Greece. She is graduate of the Law School of Democritus University of Thrace, (University of Komotini), Greece. She also hands a Master’s degree (L.M.M.) from the Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini with specialization in Criminal Procedure.

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