The basic law regulating succession matters in Cyprus is the Wills and Succession Law, Chapter 195, as amended (hereafter called the “Succession Law”). The main legislative instrument regarding probates and administration procedures in Cyprus is the Administration of Estates Law, Chapter 189, as amended, along with regulations issued by the virtue of the aforementioned law (jointly hereafter called the “Probates Law”). Succession Law and Probates Law in Cyprus, are the set of laws and regulations which provide for the passing on and the distribution of the estate of a deceased individual to hiw/her heirs or legatees, as may be applicable.
Scope of succession in Cyprus
The scope of the Succession Law, is limited to either deceased persons who had their domicile in Cyprus or to deceased persons who did not have their domicile in Cyprus, nevertheless owned immovable property in Cyprus. That is to say, the Succession Law in Cyprus only applies to the distribution of movable and immovable property of persons who had their domicile in Cyprus and to the distribution of any immovable property in Cyprus of a deceased person, irrespectively of whether he/she had his/her domicile in Cyprus.
In accordance with the Succession Law, a deceased person may only have one ‘domicile’ for succession purposes, and this may be either the ‘domicile of origin’ or the ‘domicile of choice’. A person may acquire a ‘domicile of choice’ in Cyprus, by settling his/her residence in any place in the Republic of Cyprus with the intention of permanently or indefinitely residing thereat, but the ‘domicile of choice’ may not be acquired in any other way. A ‘domicile of choice’ cannot be acquired by British nationals by virtue only of their residency in the naval, military, air or civil service of the United Kingdom based in Cyprus.
Hence, before initiating any succession procedure in Cyprus, a key matter which needs to be firstly considered is whether a deceased person had a ‘domicile’ in Cyprus, except if the deceased person’s estate, only includes immovable property in Cyprus.
Succession Laws provide for two methods via which succession of a deceased person may be effected. The first method is where there is a valid and enforceable ‘will’ and the second method is the intestate succession, that is where a person has died without leaving a valid and enforceable ‘will’ whereby succession follows the rules provided by Succession Laws. There is a possibility for the succession of a deceased person to be effected with both a valid and enforceable will and intestate regarding the estate which had not been included in the will.
As defined by the Succession Law, a ‘will’ is a written statement composed by the testator, indicating the testator’s intentions in relation to the disposal of his/her “legally disposable portion” as regards any movable property or immovable property after his/her death and the term “will” includes a codicil. The part of the inheritance which may be disposed by a will, is prescribed by the Succession Law, depending on whether a deceased person has left parents, spouse, children, or descendants of a child. More specifically, the “legally disposable portion” of an inheritance by a will, is determined as follows:
(i) If a deceased person has left a spouse and a child, or a spouse and descendants of a child, or has left no spouse but has left a child or descendants of a child, the disposable portion of the inheritance, must not exceed ¼ of the net value of the inheritance.
(ii) If a deceased person has left a spouse or any parent, but has left no children or descendants of a child, then the disposable portion of the inheritance, must not exceed ½ of the net value of the inheritance.
(iii) If a deceased person left neither spouse, nor children nor descendants of a child, nor any parent, the disposable portion of the inheritance, is the whole of the inheritance.
Every person over the 18 years of age and of sane mind can draw up a valid will, when executed in accordance with the formalities provided by the Succession Law.
Revocation of a ‘will’
A will might be revoked (i) by a subsequent will which expressly revokes the previous one, (ii) by a subsequent will which is incompatible with the provisions of the previous one, but it shall be revoked to the extent only where the provisions of the two wills are incompatible, or (iii) by burning, tearing or by any other means of destruction by the testator or in the presence of the testator. Furthermore, a will is deemed to be revoked in cases where the testator gets married after the execution of the will. A will might also be deemed to be revoked in cases where the first-born child of the testator is born after the execution of the will. However, such marriage or birth shall not be deemed to revoke the will, if it has been made clear that the will was made with the prospect of marriage and birth.
Types of assets which may be inherited by a ‘will’
Any movable or immovable asset in the ownership of a testator, either tangible or intangible may be included in a ‘will’ as bequest. An intangible asset could be any part of land, building, trees or crops, any rights over water or any other rights or privileges regarding a building or real estate being in the ownership of the testator.
A testator may designate in his/her will, one or more persons as executors of the will. Any person can be appointed as an executor, usually a trusted family member or a lawyer.
The executor is responsible to collect the assets forming the estate of the deceased person and file relevant applications with the relevant District Court Registry for a grant of probate (a court order) or for letters of administration with a will annexed thereon, which will allow him/her to act in the name of the estate and distribute the assets according to the deceased person’s intentions as these are prescribed in the will. Moreover, executors are responsible for paying any debts before distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.
Who is capable to be a legatee?
A legatee to be capable of receiving the inheritance granted to him must be over the age of 18 and of sane mind and not be denied by any Court the power to handle his own affairs.
Formalities of making a Will in Cyprus
A will must be in writing, expressing a testator’s specific intentions and must be executed at the end of it by the testator in the presence of two witnesses present at the same time. The said witnesses must attest and countersign the will, in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other. If a will consists of more than one sheet, every sheet must be signed or initialled by the testator as well as the two witnesses. A legatee cannot sign and attest a will as witness and a will so signed shall be void and with no legal consequences as it concerns the bequest left to such witness. Wills in Cyprus can be deposited for safe custody at the District Court Registry of the city in which the testator lives, nevertheless, its validity shall not be affected if the will is not deposited for safe custody. The deposit of a will for safe custody is advisable though, so that the will is located easily upon a person’s death.
Where a person has died intestate, that is without leaving a valid will, the Succession Law provides for the way that the estate of the deceased, will be distributed to the legal heirs. Specifically, the Succession Law provides that, after the repayment of the debts and obligations borne by the estate, the spouse of a deceased person shall be entitled to inherit a portion in the estate, as follows:
(i) If the deceased person has left except from the spouse, a child or a descendant of a child, they all receive equal shares.
(ii) If the deceased person has left neither a child or a descendant of a child, however he/she has left an ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant, up to a third degree of kinship, the portion of the surviving spouse shall be ½.
(iii) If the deceased person has left no child or a descendant of a child, or any ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant, up to a third degree of kinship, however, has left an ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant, up to a fourth degree of kinship, then the portion of the surviving spouse shall be ¾.
(iv) If, lastly, the deceased person has left no child or a descendant of a child, nor any ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant, up to a fourth degree of kinship, then the entitled portion of the surviving spouse shall be the whole estate of the deceased person.
After the calculation of the portion of the surviving spouse, the remaining portion of the deceased person’s estate, if any, will be distributed to the relatives of the deceased according to the degree of kinship, as provided under the Succession Law.
Grant of probate / letters of administration
A grant of probate where there is a valid will or a grant of letters of administration where a person has died intestate, grants the legal authority and power to the executor and/or administrator of the estate to manage and distribute the estate to the legatees and/or the legal heirs. In accordance with the Probates Law, the power vested in the executor allows him/her to transfer property and access and manage bank accounts, in order to distribute the assets to the legatees and/or the legal heirs, following applicable law and under the supervision of the Court. The time required for the issuance of a grant of probate or for the issuance of a grant of letters of administration, does not usually exceed 3 months provided no objection by any of the beneficiaries is raised.
Grant of Probate Procedure
The procedure for a grant a probate or for a grant of letters of administration, will be initiated by the executor, if there is a valid will, or by any of the legal heirs, if there is no will. Such procedure is initiated by filing an application requesting the granting to the proposed executor of a probate order, which will enable him/her to execute the will or in the case of a person who died intestate, by filing an application requesting the granting to an administrator of letters of administration. Following its submission with the District Court Probate Registry, the said application is subsequently submitted to the Cyprus Tax Department, which issues an approval for the issuance of the court order. The executor/administrator is obliged to gather the assets of the estate and after paying all debts and obligations, to proceed with the distribution of assets to the legal heirs and/or the legatees.
Finalising the Estate Administration Procedure
For the administration of the estate to be considered finalised, the executor/administrator must submit to the Probate Registry final accounts with accompanying documents including details and evidence as to the distribution of the estate and a waiver declaration signed by the beneficiaries stating that they have received the inheritance in which they are entitled to. The Probate Registry examines the accounts submitted and provided that the administration of the estate has been properly executed/administered, the Probate Registry releases the executor/administrator from his/her duties.
Our firm E. TZIONI & ASSOCIATES LLC, may offer the following services:
- Drafting of wills and trusts.
- Review of any existing wills or trusts that a client may have for compliance with Cyprus Laws and amendment thereof, if necessary.
- Support and assistance in relation to the execution of wills or trusts.
- Initiation of administration of estate of deceased persons procedures and support throughout the administration process.
- Legal advice regarding domicile and how this may or may not impact on succession planning in Cyprus.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and on +357 22932293.
The above material has been prepared with the intention of being a general guide only, and its application to specific situations will depend on the particular circumstances involved. Accordingly, we recommend that readers seek appropriate professional advice regarding any particular problems that they encounter. This information should not be relied upon as a substitute for such advice. While all reasonable attempts have been made to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate, E. Tzioni & Associates LLC accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions it may contain whether caused by negligence or otherwise, or for any losses, however caused, sustained by any person that relies upon it.