The acceptance of inheritance necessitates a process of necessary legal and administrative steps before one can obtain ownership of any estate to which they are entitled. One’s right as an heir may be based on the Will of the deceased or intestacy law if there is no Will left behind. Greek law applies to all assets located in Greece and potentially movable assets located outside of Greece, so before one accepts an estate, a few legal processes need to be considered.
Acceptance or renouncement of inheritance
First, one needs to ensure that they want to accept the inheritance. The estate may have an outstanding debt, or one may wish their share to go to another family member. If a recipient wishes, they can renounce the inheritance. This must all be done within a set time limit.
If the deceased died in Greece and the heir also lives in Greece, there is a four-month period from the time of the death for the probation of the Will.
On the other hand, if the deceased died abroad or the heir also lives abroad, the probation time extends to twelve months. Something needs to be done during the time limit, and if the Will is not renounced, it is considered by law that the heir has accepted the inheritance. If the heir accepts the inheritance, they will need a death certificate. In case the deceased is not living in Greece or is not from Greece, the law requires to know if the deceased was a Greek citizen.
If the one who has deceased was a citizen living outside Greece, their passing must be registered with the Consulate of Greece near the place of death. Greek law will accept the original foreign death certificate, certified with Apostilles and Authentications and the notarization by a Greek consulate.
Another essential document is a next-of-kin certificate. It is issued in Greece if the deceased is a Greek citizen. If not, it usually requires two affidavits stating the full names of the next of kin of the dead – children, spouses, siblings and children of predeceased siblings of the deceased. Then, it needs to be established if there is a Will left or not. If a Will is found, and if it is probated in another country, or if Greek law knows who the notary in Greece is or who has it, we later probate it in Greece and in a handwritten Will, the law will follow its terms.
Legal documentation and probate procedures
Greek lawyers must read the Will before it is filed for probation in Greece to advise if the Will is applicable in Greece. And if it can produce the legal results desired or if its probation and use in Greece leads to legal uncertainties. The assets of an estate in Greece are a significant matter to consider. They must be found, identified, counted, described and declared to the tax authority, to the notary and to the land registry if they are immovable assets. A house, an apartment or a plot of land will need a copy of a title deed. If not, the lawyer will obtain and review a certified copy of the act by which the deceased had owned the asset at the local land registry, where the lawyer will search using the deceased’s name.
The full name of who owned the assets in Greece is essential, as well as the first name of the father and the mother of the person. Having a key to a house or unit or knowing the directions of how to get to a plot of land is helpful for the administration of the estate. A civil engineer must inspect the immovable asset and produce technical documents such as survey maps and technical descriptions of the assets.
Finally, suppose the heir lives outside of Greece; they cannot complete the acceptance process of the inheritance within a few days or weeks in Greece. The process takes several months, and an heir needs to accompany their attorney to courts, notaries, tax offices and other authorities. If they can’t, they need to provide power of attorney (POA) to enable their attorney to work on behalf of their interest. Thus, they will be free to travel back to their country, leaving the attorney to work in Greece.
The heir does not even have to come to Greece. They can sign a POA at the Consulate of Greece or at a local notary with Apostille and send it to the attorney in Greece.
Tax implications and inheritance laws in Greece
All estates that involve a deceased who passed until the end of 2008 do not require the heirs to pay any inheritance tax to the Greek state.
However, even if the deceased died in 2009 or after, the inheritance tax in Greece is either zero or very low.
The children and the spouse/partner of the deceased do not pay any inheritance tax if their share is worth up to 150,000 Euros. This means that if two children inherit an inheritance worth 290,000 Euros. They inherit equal shares; they will not pay inheritance tax, provided they declare the estate to the tax office within the four or twelve-month period after the passing or the probation of the Will.
Even for shares worth over 150,000 Euros, each heir will have to pay inheritance tax of only one per cent (1 per cent) for worth up to 300,000 Euros (that is 1 per cent or a maximum of 1,500 Euros for the part from 150,000 to 300,000 Euros). Siblings or children of predeceased siblings of the deceased enjoy lower tax-free thresholds.
However, they will still pay no tax or a relatively low inheritance tax. In the vast majority of cases, it is worth it to claim the estate, as outstanding property taxes and other obligations are usually a small percentage of the actual market value of the assets to be inherited.
The above is a general introduction to accepting an inheritance in Greece. Each particular case has its own facts. An heir must first consult with a lawyer in Greece to learn the law and the process in each specific topic and then make an informed decision on how to proceed.