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Wills & Estates

Cyprus Wills & Estate Planning

Chambers & Co handle all issues relating to Wills, Probate & Estate Planning in Cyprus.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is an important process that everyone should consider regardless of their age, wealth, or health status. It’s a way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death and that your loved ones are taken care of. Additionally, estate planning can help you make decisions about who will manage your assets during your lifetime and who will make personal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

One of the most critical documents in estate planning is a Will. It’s a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It includes the names of your beneficiaries and what each will inherit from your estate. A Will also allows you to name an executor, the person responsible for managing your estate after your death.

Another important aspect of estate planning is beneficiary designations. These are especially relevant for assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts. By designating beneficiaries, you can ensure that your assets pass directly to the people you choose without the need for probate.

Estate planning also allows you to make funeral arrangements and specify your preferences for end-of-life care. You can also use estate planning to appoint someone to make decisions about your medical care and finances if you become unable to do so yourself.

Our Cyprus Estate Planning Lawyers can help you create a comprehensive plan that includes a Will, beneficiary designations, funeral arrangements, Powers of Attorney, and guardianship nominations.

Making a Will in Cyprus

Many people in Cyprus don’t know what happens upon death when a Will is not made. Our Wills and Probate lawyers will help you with all aspects of making a Will in Cyprus and help you with all estate administration issues.

Making a Will is vital if you want to be certain that your wishes will be met after you pass on. Many people put it off. They worry it will be complicated and expensive. But the process is fairly straightforward and if you plan ahead, presents excellent value.

It is important to review and update your Will regularly to make sure it always reflects what you want to happen to your estate (your property, savings and possessions).

If you don’t make a Will, in legal terms you will die ‘intestate’ and your estate is divided up according to the Intestate Rules.

Your estate includes everything you own, any cash, property, possessions and investments. Collectively these are your assets and your assets make up your estate.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

In order for a Will to be valid the testator must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind.

In order for a Cyprus Will to be valid, it must be in writing and executed in a certain way.

First of all, it must be signed at the bottom or at the end by the testator or by someone else who acts on behalf of the testator in his presence and by his command.

Furthermore, the signature must be put or must be acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses who must be present at the same time.

The said witnesses must attest and countersign the Will in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other.

Finally, each sheet of the Will must be signed or be initialled by or on behalf of the testator and the witnesses.

The witnesses must be age 18, or above, must be of sound mind and they must also be able to sign their names.

In order for Cyprus inheritance and succession law to apply, the deceased must be domiciled in Cyprus at the time of his/her death. However, Cyprus law may be applied in the case of immovable property that is situated in Cyprus, even though the deceased had his/her domiciled aboard.

According to Cyprus law, a bequest in a Will in favour of the witness or husband, wife or child of the witness is void and with no legal effect.

Cyprus law aims to protect the family, so it imposes certain restrictions on the freedom of the testator to dispose of his/her estate by Will.

Cyprus Law allows the testator to dispose of only a portion of the estate (known as the “disposable portion”).

Specifically, if a person dies leaving spouse and child, or spouse and descendant of a child, or no spouse but child or descendant of a child then the disposable portion must not exceed the ¼ of the net value of the estate.

Where a person dies leaving a spouse or father or mother but no child or descendant of a child, then the disposable portion must not exceed the ½ of the net value of the estate.

The only way a person is able to dispose all of his/her estate freely is where he/she dies leaving neither a spouse, nor a child, nor a descendant of a child, nor a father, nor a mother.  In this case, he/she is free to dispose by Will all of his/her estate.

HOWEVER, under a choice of law provision in the Brussels IV Regulation any person can choose the law of their country of their nationality as the law to govern the succession of their estate within the participating EU states.

For example, if you are an Italian National with property in Cyprus, you may choose Italian law to apply to the administration of your estate and in so doing avoid the Cyprus forced heirship rules.

The EU Regulation provides that the choice of applicable law has to be made expressly by a declaration in the Will, otherwise the default position is that the law of your habitual residence will be the governing law for the distribution of your estate.

If a person is not able to make a Cyprus Will dealing with their entire estate, or if they are able to do so but decide not to, then the assets are subject to the Cyprus Succession Law and will pass according to the “forced heirship” rules.

Cyprus has a fairly complicated system of inheritance which effectively reserves a certain portion of the estate which must pass according to the rules. The portion which passes according to the forced heirship system depends on the surviving relatives of the deceased as briefly mentioned above.

The cost for the drafting of a standard Will, including expenses for filling the Will with the probate registrar start at €450 + VAT.

EU Succession Regulation (Brussels IV) and Its Application in Cyprus

The European Union Succession Regulation, commonly known as Brussels IV, is a landmark regulation aimed at simplifying the often complicated cross-border inheritance matters within the EU. Implemented on August 17, 2015, it harmonises succession laws across participating EU member states, enabling a more streamlined and uniform approach to international estate planning and administration.

The EU Succession Regulation

Brussels IV was introduced to address the complexities arising from the differing succession laws among EU member states. The regulation primarily focuses on:

  1. Jurisdiction: Determining which country’s courts have authority over a cross-border succession.
  2. Applicable law: Identifying the governing law for a cross-border succession.
  3. Recognition and enforcement: Ensuring that decisions, authentic instruments, and court settlements related to a cross-border succession are recognised and enforceable across the participating EU member states.

Under Brussels IV, the general rule is that the law of the country where the deceased had their habitual residence (Domicile) at the time of death governs the succession. However, an individual can choose the law of their nationality to apply to their succession through a valid choice of law in their will or other estate planning documents.

It is essential to note that the United Kingdom opted out of Brussels IV. Therefore, the regulation does not directly apply to UK citizens or UK-based assets. Nevertheless, it still has implications for UK citizens living in Cyprus, as explained below.

Application of Brussels IV in Cyprus: EU Citizens

For an EU citizen residing in Cyprus, Brussels IV simplifies the succession process. Suppose the EU citizen has not made a choice of law in their will. In that case, the law of Cyprus (the country of their habitual residence) will generally govern their entire estate, including assets located in other EU countries.

However, if the EU citizen chooses their home country law to govern their succession, then their home country law will apply to their worldwide estate. This choice of law can help ensure that the EU citizen’s estate is administered according to their home country’s legal traditions and customs.

Application of Brussels IV in Cyprus: UK Citizens

Although the UK opted out of Brussels IV, the regulation still has implications for UK citizens residing in Cyprus. In the absence of a choice of law, the law of Cyprus, as the country of habitual residence (Domicile), will govern the succession of a UK citizen living in Cyprus.

Typically, English law distinguishes between real and personal property. In the context of legal disputes between different legal systems, a further distinction is made between immovable and movable property. Immovable property encompasses freehold and leasehold interests in land and other interests that are directly or indirectly related to land, such as mortgagee rights and rent charge rights.

The separation between movable and immovable property is crucial because, according to English law, the succession of immovable property is determined by the law of the location of the property (the lex situs) at the time of death. In contrast, movable property follows the law of the deceased’s domicile (the lex domicilii).

Not all foreign jurisdictions adhere to the same rules concerning domicile or the differentiation between immovable and movable property as per English courts. For deaths occurring on or after August 17, 2015, where the EU Succession Regulation applies, the chosen law will govern the entire succession, encompassing both movable and immovable property. Consequently, if a UK national possesses immovable property in an EU state where the Regulation is enforced, and they validly elect for English law to govern their succession, the EU state where the immovable property is located will apply English domestic succession law. When a valid choice of law has been made, renvoi (the process of referring the legal matter back to another jurisdiction) is excluded.

However, if the UK national relies solely on their habitual residence in England to determine the applicable law for their succession, the domestic law of the location of the property (the lex situs) would apply, following the standard rules of English succession. This arrangement effectively means that for immovable property located in a different country, such as Cyprus, the succession laws of Cyprus would govern the distribution of the property, even if the rest of the estate is governed by English law.

Probate and Administration in Cyprus

Our lawyers can help you navigate the probate procedure and any associated legal obligations if you have been chosen as an executor of a will or as administrator for someone who passed away without a will.

This includes applying to the Court to get probate, opening the estate, assembling the assets, paying the estate’s debts, selling estate property if necessary, supervising the distributions to heirs, submitting estate taxes, accounting and all necessary reporting required so as to proceed to final accounts and closure.

Leaving a Valid Will

In Cyprus, probate refers to the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. The rules for probate in Cyprus are governed by the Administration of Estates Law, which outlines the procedures for distributing a person’s assets and settling any debts or liabilities after their death.

Generally, the process begins with the filing of a petition for probate with the District Court. The petition must be filed by an executor or administrator of the estate, who is responsible for managing the deceased person’s assets and distributing them according to the terms of their will or the laws of inheritance.

Once the petition for probate is filed with the District Court, the court will take several steps to ensure that the will is valid and that the executor or administrator is qualified to manage the estate. This may include a review of the will and any other documents related to the estate, as well as an investigation into the background of the executor or administrator.

Once the court is satisfied that the will is valid and that the executor or administrator is qualified, it will issue a grant of probate. This grant confirms the executor or administrator’s authority to manage the estate and allows them to take possession of the deceased person’s assets and begin the process of distributing them.

The court will also appoint a curator ad litem, who acts as a guardian for any minor or incapacitated beneficiaries of the estate.

The executor or administrator will be responsible for identifying and gathering all of the deceased person’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property. They will also be responsible for paying any outstanding debts or liabilities of the estate, such as taxes, mortgages, and credit card balances.

The executor or administrator will also be responsible for notifying all interested parties, such as beneficiaries and creditors, of the probate proceedings. They will also be responsible for ensuring that all required tax returns are filed and that any taxes owed are paid.

Once all debts and liabilities have been paid, the executor or administrator will begin the process of distributing the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries.

As the executor or administrator carries out their duties, they will be required to provide regular reports to the court on the status of the estate. This may include information on the assets that have been collected, any debts or liabilities that have been paid, and any taxes that have been paid. The court will review these reports to ensure that the estate is being managed properly and that the assets are being distributed according to the terms of the will or the laws of inheritance.

In summary, the probate process in Cyprus is governed by the Administration of Estates Law, and it includes the filing of a petition for probate, the issuing of a grant of probate, the identification and gathering of assets, the paying of debts and liabilities, the notification of interested parties, and the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. The executor or administrator will be responsible for ensuring that all of these steps are carried out properly and in accordance with the law.

It is important to note that the probate process in Cyprus can be complex and time-consuming, and it is often recommended that the executor or administrator seek the advice of a legal professional with experience in probate matters.

Making A Will in Cyprus

Not Leaving a Valid Will

When a person dies without leaving a valid will, they are said to have died “intestate.” In this case, the laws of inheritance in Cyprus and forced heirship rule, will determine how the deceased person’s assets are distributed.

The forced heirship rule applies to the estate of persons who at the time of their death, were domiciled in Cyprus irrespective of nationality.

When a person dies intestate, the court will appoint an administrator to manage the deceased person’s estate. This administrator will be responsible for identifying and gathering the deceased person’s assets, paying any outstanding debts or liabilities, and distributing the assets to the rightful heirs according to the laws of inheritance.

The forced heirship rules in Cyprus provide for a specific order of inheritance, with the surviving spouse and children receiving the largest share of the estate. If the deceased person was unmarried and childless, the estate will be distributed to the deceased person’s parents, brothers and sisters, and other relatives in a specific order.

It’s important to note that in the case of intestate, the court will appoint an administrator, and the process of identifying and gathering the assets, paying debts and liabilities, and distributing the assets may take longer and be more complex than if the deceased person had left a will. It is also important to note that the distribution of assets in an intestate situation may not align with the deceased’s wishes or the needs of the beneficiaries.

In the event of intestacy, Cyprus law prioritises the deceased’s relatives in a specific order, distributing the estate among them as follows:

1. First Class of Kindred

  • This class encompasses the legitimate children of the deceased who were alive at the time of death and the descendants of any deceased’s legitimate children who died during the deceased’s lifetime.
  • These descendants are entitled to equal shares, with the principle of representation (per stirpes) applying to the descendants of any deceased’s legitimate children, allowing them to inherit the share their parent would have received if alive.

2. Second Class of Kindred

  • Includes the deceased’s parents alive at the time of death (or the nearest living ancestor if the parents are deceased), siblings alive at the time of death, and the living descendants of any deceased’s siblings who passed away during the deceased’s lifetime.
  • If there are no first-class kindred, the estate passes to these relatives, with siblings and their descendants entitled to equal shares.

3. Third Class of Kindred

  • Comprises the nearest ancestors of the deceased alive at their death. If ancestors of equal degree are present on both the father’s and mother’s sides, the estate is divided equally between both sides.
  • Within each side, if there are multiple ancestors, they share their portion equally.

4. Fourth Class of Kindred

  • This class includes the nearest kin alive at the time of the deceased’s death, extending the succession line to more distant relatives if needed.

Rights of the Surviving Spouse

The surviving spouse’s entitlement is carefully defined, ensuring they receive a portion of the estate that reflects their relationship with the deceased and the presence of other relatives:

  • With Children or Descendants: The spouse’s share equals that of each child.
  • No Children, but with Ancestors or Descendants up to the Third Degree: The spouse gets half of the estate.
  • No Children or Third-Degree Relatives, but with Fourth-Degree Relatives: The spouse’s share increases to three-quarters of the estate.
  • No Children or Relatives up to the Fourth Degree: The spouse inherits the entire estate.

Cyprus Estate Planning using a Trust

A Trust is a tool used to hold property outside of your legal estate under the management of a designated individual (trustee). Through a living Trust, you can serve both as the trustee and the beneficiary. This is just a Trust that you establish while you are still alive, as opposed to other trusts that are established as directed by a Will only after death.

Trusts are among the most adaptable legal instruments. You can utilise a Trust to manage a business or hold real estate, make provisions for children or a disabled family member, establish a scholarship fund or endow a non-profit organisation, or place restrictions on inheritance.

Trusts do not go through probate since they are distinct from a person’s personal estate; instead, distributions are distributed directly to beneficiaries without the cost and delay of probate.

A revocable Trust is one that the person who established it can change, amend, or revoke at any moment. An irrevocable Trust is one that the creator cannot alter or access. Our lawyers can assist you in selecting the Trust or Trusts that best meet your needs and goals.

Wills & Estates in Cyprus

See how our lawyers can help you with your Will & Estate Planning in Cyprus.