Dealing with Loss
The initial shock and the sense of void, that’s left behind by the absence of the deceased, is quickly filled with grief, anger, sadness… and many times obligation. Yes, obligation! We feel a sense of duty owed to our loved one.
First of all, we owe them respect. We hold ceremonies to honor them. We have been doing the same since the dawn of time.
Furthermore, we owe them the opportunity to finish whatever they left behind unfinished.
For the most part, this unfinished/open business is the inheritance, i.e. the property owned by the deceased. The successors need to decide what they are going to do with the property, that is about to be transferred to them.
Within the greek legal system, there is no distinguishment between positive (assets, real estate, valuables, vehicles, merchandise, stocks, etc) and negative (debt, loans, back taxes, tariffs, etc) inheritance. Everything is transferred: assets and debt. Thus, it is very important to have a clear idea of the financial status of the estate, before accepting or denouncing the inheritance.
If there is a substantial debt burdening the estate, the heirs can either:
- denounce the inheritance altogether within four (4) months of the passing (or one (1) year for people living outside Greece), or
- accept the inheritance with the “benefit of inventory” (A chart is drawn up with the assets on one side and the debts on the other side), where the heirs’ liability is limited to the estate’s reserve. The beneficiaries of the inheritance will not have to pay any debt out of their own pocket, but will limit their liability to the assets conveyed to them by the inheritance.
Literally speaking, the transfer of the property to the heirs takes place immediately with the passing of the inherited person. So, if the above dates pass and the heirs do not denounce, they are stuck with the inheritance, whether they want to or not.
Who inherits what?
If a person dies without a last will and testament, there is a specific order under intestate succession:
1st order: Surviving spouse (25%) – Child(ren), Grandchild(ren), if child(ren) is/are not alive (75%)
2nd order: Surviving spouse (50%) – Parent(s), Brother(s)/Sister(s), Nephew(s)/Niece(s), if Brother(s)/Sister(s) are not alive, Grandnephew(s)/Grandniece(s), if Nephew(s)/Niece(s) are not alive (50%)
3rd order: Surviving spouse (50%) – Grandparent(s), Uncle(s)/Aunt(s) if Grandparent(s) are not alive, Cousins, if Uncle(s)/Aunt(s) are not alive (50%)
4th order: Surviving spouse (50%) – Great-grandarent(s) (50%)
5th order: Surviving spouse (100%)
6th order: The State
Under Greek Law, every person over 18 years of age and of sound mind can draft up a will and last testament. There are three types of will:
- Public will, drafted by a Notary Public and signed in front of three witnesses, or a second Notary Public and one witness,
- Holographic will, (the individual uses their own handwriting, conveying their own thoughts, using their own wording, stating their own will). This type of will is drafted, dated, and signed solely by the testator, and
- Secret will, where the testator drafts the will and then registers it with a Notary Public.
The testator can will their property as they wish, but they cannot completely exclude their spouse and their children, unless the latter ones have done something horrible against the testator (for example, they threatened her life).
The tax authorities are watching…
The beneficiaries will have to file a tax return on their inheritance within six (6) months from the passing of the inherited (extended to twelve (12) months for people living abroad).
For the assessment of the tax due on the inheritance, a lot of factors are taken into account: the order of the heir, the value of the estate, the tax-free amount calculated and subtracted from the estate, etc
The following documents are required, when submitting an inheritance tax claim:
- Death Certificate
- A certified copy of the will in Greek (if any)
- Close Relatives Certificate (Proof of the type and degree of kinship with the deceased, issued by the Municipal Authorities)
- Certificate by the Court Clerk (Court of First Instance) that there is NO will, or that THIS is the ONLY will, or that NO OTHER will has ever been published
- Power of Attorney
- Documents proving the date of the commencement of the tax obligation
- Legal proof of any debts burdening the estate, so they can be deducted from the inheritance.
OK, we are ready to accept our inheritance.
A Notary Public drafts up the deed of acceptance. In order to do so, we need to provide her with all of the above-mentioned certificates, plus the one issued by the tax authorities. As soon as the deed is ready and signed, it has to be registered with the National Cadaster and the process is finished.
Throughout my professional life, I have handled over two hundred cases of inheritance, from the most simple ones to some that were extremely complicated and difficult. I completed each and every one of them, with respect to the deceased and their wishes, with sensitivity and compassion to the mourning relatives, but also with strong, impartial, decent, and detached professionalism.
I encourage you to ask questions in the comments below.