When you learn that you are entitled to inherit either 100 per cent or a share of a property in Greece, it is advisable that you contact an expert in Greece who will advise you about your rights, your options and the procedure which must be followed so that you obtain the ownership of the assets of the estate.
The initial and basic information which your legal advisor will need to know, in order to help you, will be the full name of the deceased, meaning name, last name, father and mother’s name if available, and the maiden name, if the deceased was a woman. It is also important to know the place of birth of the deceased, because if the deceased was born in Greece, Greek law will be applied to find out who the heirs are and what their share is. If the deceased was not born in Greece, but his/her parents were Greek-born, it may also be possible to apply Greek law.
If the deceased was not born in Greece, and did not have a Greek passport, the Greek administration and the Greek courts will apply the inheritance law of the deceased’s nationality. For instance, if the deceased was British, it will be British law which we will apply in Greece, to determine the heirs and their percentage on the estate. However, if any inheritance taxes are owed and what amount, as well as the requirements of the deed of transfer of the properties, are governed by Greek law.
The next piece of information crucial for the inheritance process is the next of kin, meaning whether the deceased left a spouse, children, and if not, if the deceased left siblings, or children of predeceased siblings etc. If the deceased was Greek, and left a spouse and children, without leaving a Will, Greek intestate law says that the spouse inherits 25 per cent of the estate, while the children get 75 per cent. If the next of kin are the spouse, and siblings, without children, the spouse gets intestate (without a Will) 50 per cent of the inheritance and the siblings, or children of predeceased children, get the other 50 per cent. There is no need to mention that other options and combinations in shares and percentages are possible and only when we know all the facts we can advise on the precise status of the estate shares.
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 in the country where it was drafted. If it was drafted outside of Greece, the Will must be probated in 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 difficult 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 helpful 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.
The time limit to file the inheritance tax declaration to the Greek tax office is six months, if both deceased and heirs are based in Greece. However, if either the deceased lived abroad, or the heirs are residents outside of Greece, the time limit is extended to 12 months after the passing of the deceased. If there is a Will, the time limit starts from the day of the probation of the Will. Estates which are filed at the tax office after the time limit has expired may have to pay small fines, depending on the length of the delay of filing.
For the spouse and children of a deceased, who has passed away after 2010, the tax-free limit is 150,000 euros for each heir. For the next 150,000 euros, the inheritance tax is 1 per cent. This means that if the child inherits property worth 250,000 euros and the deceased passed away after 2010, the heir will pay 1,000 euros as inheritance tax. If the child’s share is 300,000 euros, the child will pay 1,500 euros.
However, the inheritance taxes which the next of kin or heirs may have to pay is estimated after considering several facts, like the date of death of the deceased, as tax rates change every few years, the degree of relation of the heir to the deceased, whether the estate is filed at the tax office on time or after the expiration of the time limit, the nature of the assets, possible debts on property taxes etc.
Finally, if the deceased had passed away until the 31st of December 1994, the inheritance tax is abolished and irrespective of the value of the estate, no inheritance taxes are to be paid, at least according to the rules which apply today.
*Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.