In case of a heritage that involves beneficiaries from different countries, then heirs and relatives have to deal with some complicated issues. The most crucial question (that would sort out all the inheritance procedural steps) to be answered is “which is the law applicable?”
This is a quick presentation of the most important provisions of the Greek Inheritance Law:
1. Choice of law applicable –Applicable Law
a) Principles of nationality law
Succession because of Death is regulated by article 25 of Introductory Law of Greek Civil Code or by article 28 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure Succession because of Death depends on the deceased’s nationality by the time of his/her death. Greek Law (in contrast to German Law) does not give the testator the opportunity to choose which law would be applicable to his/her estate- even if he stated differently in his holographic will.
According to present laws both in Greece and in Germany, the deceased’s nationality by the time of his/her death is the critical point for the whole procedure. If the deceased had the Greek nationality, then succession is regulated by Greek law (time limit for renouncing an estate, methods for estate acceptance, capacity to inherit, etc)
Greek law gives some exceptions that regard the implementation of nationality law, the reserved portion and the disposition upon death.
If a Greek national was living abroad for 25 consequent years prior to his/her death, then Greek law is not applicable regarding the reserved portion.
The provisions of the “Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 relating to the testamentary disposition” apply with regard to the formal validity of a disposition of property upon death. Article 11 defines that the formal validity of disposition is determined by the law under which it was drawn up, or the location at which the disposition of property was drawn up, or by the prevalent law of all the contracting parties.
c) Amendments of legislation as from 17 August 2015
According to the European Regulation 650/2012 in matters to inheritance law, which will be valid as from 17 August 2015, the succession will be regulated exclusively by the law of the Member State the deceased had his/her habitual residence by the time of his/her.
2. Special characteristics of the Greek Inheritance Law
a) Reserved Share
Relatives who are the legal heirs are grouped in following “classes” as defined in the Greek Civil Code.
According to article 1813 of the Civil Code, 1st class heirs are the deceased’s descendant relatives (e.g. his/her children). If the deceased did not leave a surviving spouse (who would inherit ¼ of the estate either way), the descendants are the only heirs. The deceased’s estate is distributed per stirpes among the first class heirs. Children will inherit the estate in equal portions.
According to article 1814 of the Greek Civil Code, the second class heirs are the deceased’s parents, his/her siblings (who inherit equal parts of the estate), their children and the grandchildren. The latter inherit per stirpes. Children of any pre-deceased brother/sister exclude any grandchildren from their inheritance rights.
According to article 1816 of the Civil Code, grandparents of the deceased or their children or grandchildren are the third class heirs.
According to article 1817 of the Civil Code, grand-grandparents of the deceased are the 4th class heirs.
A spouse does not belong in any of the above classes as he/she is not a relative of the deceased. According to article 1820, a spouse is a legal heir and if he/she inherits along with first class heirs, then his/her portion reaches ¼ of the estate, regardless the number of children. If the spouse inherits along second, third, and forth class heirs, his/her portion of the estate reaches ½.
Fifth class- Exclusive spouse’s succession right
If there are no other relatives, a spouse is the sole heir, according to article 1821 of Civil Code.
The Greek state if there are not any other relatives of any of the above classes or a spouse, at the time of the devolution of inheritance.
3. Renouncing of an estate
According to article 1847 of the Greek Civil Code, heirs have the right to renounce an inheritance within a certain timeline. If this timeline passes without the heir making use of his/her right, then it is assumed that the heir has accepted the estate (article1710 of Civil Code).
The Greek State is excluded from this provision. It cannot renounce an inheritance. The renouncement of a succession is a uni-lateral declaration which is free of terms and clauses, it has a certain format and it cannot be recalled. It defines that the temporary heir does not wish to accept the share. The heir is obliged to submit the renouncement declaration in-person, to the Court of Inheritance. The renouncement can be filed by a third person on behalf of the heir, but a certification “Special Power of Attorney is required”. This certification is handed to the clerk of the Court.
According to article 1847 of the Civil Code, the heir should submit the renouncement within 4 months, from the time of inheritance devolution. This deadline expands to 12 months if the deceased’s last domicile was abroad, or if the heir was living abroad when he/she became aware of the estate. In cases of succession by virtue of a will, the timeline begins from the date when the will was probated. The deadline is not valid if the heir has a false idea concerning the properties of the succession.
If the heir does not have a legal capacity, then the deadline starts from the date the curator becomes aware of the renouncement.
If the heir is a minor child, then the parents of the child or whoever has the parental responsibility (articles 1625 and 1526) can submit the renouncement declaration once the family board and the court issue their decisions.
In case the heir dies before the end of the timeline, this timeline does not end before the end of the timeline for renouncement which is set for the heir’s succession (article 1855 of the Civil Code).
Invalid renouncement – Cancellation
According to articles 1850 and 1851 of Civil Code, the renouncement declaration is invalid:
It was submitted after the end of the timeline. In this case, it is presumed that that the heir accepted the inheritance.
It was submitted before the death of the testator.
If the heir partially renounced the inheritance or the share (partial acceptance is not permitted).
If the heir accepted the inheritance, before submitting the renouncement (article 1849).
The declaration of renouncement can be declared as invalid, if it was made of false impression, fraud, or threat (article of 1857). A lawsuit can be acquired within a 6 months period.
According to article 1856 of the Civil Code, in case of renouncement, it is assumed that the devolution of the succession never took place. The heir who renounced is considered as if he was never an heir. Consequently, the share would be devolved to that person who would be an heir, if the person (who already renounced the heritance) were dead.
It should be noted that the estate can be shared under intestacy or by virtue of a will.