Wills and Succession in Cyprus

Estates, succession and inheritance tax: find out the details relevant to Cyprus...

In Cyprus the main laws relating to wills and succession are:
  • The Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195: This law governs the law in relation to wills and succession in Cyprus. It was enacted in 1945 although there have been subsequent amendments.
  • The Administration of Estates Law, Cap. 189: This law provides for the procedure for the execution of wills and the administration of the estates of deceased persons.
  • The Probates (Re-Sealing) Law, Cap. 192: It regulates the procedure of re-sealing in the Cyprus Courts the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration which were issued by courts in the UK or other Commonwealth countries. This law applies to people who have passed away in the UK or any other Commonwealth country but the deceased persons owned property in Cyprus. The Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by a Commonwealth court can be re-sealed in Cyprus and an administrator may be appointed by the court to administer the estate in Cyprus.

When Cyprus Law is Applicable

Cyprus law is applicable to govern the administration of a deceased person when the deceased person was domiciled in Cyprus at the time of his or her death. This usually means that the deceased person must have been living permanently in Cyprus at the time of his or her death. There are two types of domicile. They are the ‘domicile of origin’ and the ‘domicile of choice’. The domicile of origin is the country where a person is born. The domicile of choice is the country he or she moves to and lived in permanently. The issue of ‘domicile’ can sometimes be complex and a qualified lawyer can advise whether Cyprus law is applicable or not depending on the specific details of each deceased person. Cap. 195 provides that irrespective of the issue of domicile, Cyprus law does not regulate any immovable property in another country but it regulates all immovable property in Cyprus irrespective of whether the deceased was domiciled in Cyprus or not at the time of death. Moreover, Cyprus law is applicable for all movable property in any country of the world of a deceased who had Cyprus domicile.

Distribution of an Estate

A person can distribute his estate by drafting a will. If a deceased person had not drafted a will during his or her lifetime, his or her property will be distributed according to the laws of succession.

Wills

Any adult person of sound mind has the legal capacity to draft a valid will. For a will to be valid certain formalities must be followed. The signature of the testator (the person making the will) must be witnessed by a minimum of two witnesses who must also sign the will in the presence of the testator and of another. If the will is comprised of more than one page, every page must have the initials of the testator and witnesses and the final page must be signed by the testator and all witnesses. There are certain restrictions by law in regards to the way an estate can be distributed via a will. The estate is divided into a ‘disposable portion’ and a ‘statutory portion’. The disposable portion can be disposed of as the testator wishes but the statutory portion is reserved for the widow, children and close relatives of the deceased. The statutory portion is calculated based on which relatives survived the deceased. More specifically:
  • If a deceased is survived by a child or a descendant of a child, the statutory portion is three quarters of the net estate;
  • If a deceased is survived by a spouse or parent but not by any children or their descendants, the statutory portion is half of the net estate;
  • If the deceased is not survived by parent, spouse, child or descendants of a child the statutory portion is nil.
In cases where the testator distributes more than the disposable portion he/she is allowed to distribute, that disposable portion will be reduced down to the portion he or she was allowed to distribute.

Revoking a will

A will can be revoked by drafting another will which explicitly states that it revokes the previous will or part of it. A will can also be revoked if the testator willingly destroys it or gives instructions to another individual to this effect. Moreover, if the testator gets married or has children after the execution of the will, the will is considered to be revoked, unless if the will provides for the possibility of marriage or the birth of his/her children. Further, if the testator obtains a divorce, the will is considered to be revoked unless he/she has re executed it or reviewed it.

When there is no will

If a person dies without a will or does not appoint an executor in the will, the court will appoint an administrator. If there are heirs underage or under disability the court will appoint a minimum of two administrators. The administrator will administer the estate according to the laws of succession, will pay any debts of the deceased and distribute the property to the heirs. The surviving spouse and any children inherit in equal shares. If there are no surviving children or spouse, the property will be inherited by more distant relatives and according to the category of kindred they belong to. There are four different classes of kindred.

Tax Obligations

There is no inheritance tax in Cyprus as the Estate Duty (Amending) Law 2000 has been abolished concerning any person who passed away after the 1st of January of 2000. It must be noted though that domiciles of other countries may be liable to pay inheritance tax in their countries.
Prepared by Cyprus law firm Danos & Associates Floor 7 Nicosia Tower, 36 Vyronos Avenue, Nicosia 1096 Tel: +357 22 872 276 | Fax: +357 22 872 279 email www.cypruslegalservices.eu Copyright Ⓒ 2014, Danos & Associates