Wills and Inheritance Law in Greece
The key information you need regarding inheritance law and will-making in Greece...
According to Greek law, any person over the age of 18 and of sound mind is entitled to make a will in Greece to secure the transfer of their assets. Greece has a system of forced heirship, and a person may not freely determine who gets what. If a person dies without making a will, all assets will be divided among the next of kin, according to Greek law.
Any will that involves a property located in Greece has to follow Greek law, regardless of whether the testator is Greek or not and whether they lived in Greece or not. Therefore, the first step before deciding to write a will is to consult a Greek lawyer with experience in this matter.
Types of Will in Greece
There are three types of will in Greece:
- Holographic Will
- Mystic (secret) Will
- Public Will
This is the simplest type of will and should be handwritten by the testator in their language of preference. The will is dated and signed and is free of any legal formalities. The testator should give it to a public notary (Συμβολαιογράφος/simvoleografos), a lawyer, or to any other person where it can be kept safely.
A mystic, or secret, will is handwritten or typed by the testator or another person and bears the signature of the testator. The testator hands the will to a public notary or a lawyer in the presence of three witnesses (or a second notary and one witness), making an oral declaration that the document is their Final Will and Testament. The document should be sealed in the presence of the testator and of the witnesses.
The testator declares verbally their last will before a public notary and in the presence of three witnesses, or a second notary and one witness. The witness may not be a relative of the testator, a beneficiary in the will, or the appointed executor of the will. The content of the will should not be disclosed while the testator is alive. If the testator does not speak Greek fluently an interpreter can be used.
Wills may be cancelled or modified at any time, and a new will automatically cancels a previous one.
Inheritance Law in Greece
Greek inheritance law is regulated by the Greek Civil Code, Art. 1710 - 2035. All inheritance and tax claims regarding immovable property in Greece are decided according to Greek rules, even if the deceased was not Greek and even if the will was made under foreign law.
- A will made and signed in Greece must be probated in Greece
- A will signed outside of Greece must be probated in the country where it was signed and must then be registered at the Greek court in Athens
Wills made abroad are deposited at a Greek consular authority or to the registrar of a court of first instance. After the probation, the documents should be transferred immediately to the registrar of the Court of first instance of Athens.
The following documents are required:
- Death certificate officially translated into Greek
- A true copy of the will officially translated into Greek
- A certificate from the registrar stating that the will has been probated in the foreign country
Foreign residents making a claim
A person residing abroad may only claim their inheritance at the Athens courts. If the owner of a Greek property dies abroad, regardless of their nationality, the successors must take all the necessary actions through the Athens courts.
The first step in claiming an inherited property in Greece is to contact an attorney qualified and permitted to conduct research in Greece's land registries and mortgage offices. The claimer should provide the lawyer with:
- Any existing will
- A detailed family tree, in order to determine who can claim a share of the property according to Greek law
According to Greek inheritance law, the children and the spouse are entitled to inherit a part of the legacy, regardless of the conditions imposed by a will. If the deceased has not left a will, the heritage is divided among their closest relatives. If the deceased was not Greek, the legacy will be divided according to the law of their country of citizenship.
Inheritance Tax in Greece
Inheritance tax is imposed on each beneficiary, and the rate is determined by the relationship between the deceased and the beneficiary and the value of the property received. An inheritance tax declaration should be submitted by the beneficiary or their legal representative within six months from the date of death or from the date of the will's probation. However, this period is one year from the date of probation if the beneficiaries reside outside of Greece.
The inheritance tax differs according to the degree of relationship between the deceased and the heir. For example, a surviving spouse and children pay less inheritance tax than brothers and sisters of the deceased.
Foreign citizens are subject to the same tax rates as Greek citizens.
Note: there is no inheritance tax for the successor who inherits assets of a person who died prior to 1 January 1990.
Submitting an inheritance tax declaration
The following documents are required when submitting an inheritance tax declaration:
- Death Certificate ( Ληξιαρχικής Πράξης Θανάτου/Lixiarhiki praxi thanathou)
- A certified copy of the will in Greek
- Proof of the type and degree of kinship with the deceased from the municipal authority
- The testimonial of the Secretary of Judges of a court of first instance that the will was not publicised previously
- Legal authorisation if represented by an attorney
- Documents proving the date of the beginning of tax obligation
- Legal proof of any debts that the deceased had in order to deduct from the inheritance
The declaration must be submitted to the Tax office (Εφορία) in the area where the deceased resided, or to the Foreign Residents Tax office (κάτοικοι εξωτερικού/Katikon Exoterikou) if the deceased resided abroad.
- Christos Lliopoulos has more information for calculating inheritance tax