If a relative dies in Greece, and you are the next of kin, you may be liable to pay back their debts. Neos Kosmos was recently notified of this through reader Angelique Stratiotis who had the exact thing happen to a relative of hers and was concerned this could happen to you too. Ms Stratiotis posed a number of questions to Neos Kosmos.

We asked a long time contributor to our newspaper Mr Christos Iliopoulos, an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, to give our readers more information on the issue and we hope that this will shed some light to the particulars of these issues.

Mr Iliopoulos made it clear that it doesn’t matter if you are a Greek citizen or own a Greek passport, anyone can inherit property, other assets, movables or cash when claiming an inheritance in Greece. “Being an heir can be a good thing, especially if you inherit property or funds.

But in some cases, and particularly due to Greece’s financial crisis, you may find yourself in the position of inheriting serious liabilities. As the heir of the deceased you are looked at to footing the bill to third parties, such as banks and creditors,” said Mr Iliopoulos. “It is imperative to find out whether or not you are an heir to an inheritance the minute you learn of a relative passing in Greece,” pointed out Mr Iliopoulos.

Renouncing the inheritance is the only way you can get out of paying these debts but the loophole is that you only have a specific time frame to do so. If the deceased lived and died in Greece and you live in Greece, the time limit is four months from the time of the passing, or from the time you learned that you are an heir. If the deceased lived outside of Greece and you live outside of Greece, the time limit to renounce is twelve months. Greek law says that you have accepted the inheritance if you don’t renounce the inheritance in this time frame, even if you have done nothing about it.

“Another thing to keep in mind is that you can become an heir due to another family member renouncing their inheritance, and you become the sole heir. The same time limits are imposed again from the time the previous relative renounced, to renounce yourself,” said Mr Iliopoulos.

Under the Greek law children can also become heirs to an inheritance. In cases where their parents renounce the inheritance themselves, children, below 18-years-old, then become the heirs. Keep in mind, though, that children can only renounce their inheritance when their parent goes to court and gets permission to renounce on behalf of their under age child.

Mr Iliopoulos pointed out that to renounce your inheritance legally, you need to get a copy of the death certificate, the certificate of closer relatives and/or the will – which prove that you are an heir – and your Greek identification or your passport. You need to sign a formal document at the court in Greece.

If you live in Australia, you sign the paperwork at the Consulate of Greece in Australia. Last but not least before you renounce, it is advisable to make sure that the inheritance has only debts and liabilities, because the inheritance may have some debts, but other assets may be enough to cover the liabilities and the you may inherit net profits.

Neos Kosmos strongly advise you get legal advice, by a lawyer in Greece, when dealing with a passing of a relative and inheritance.

Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece and assisted Neos Kosmos in the information provided in this piece.