Dealing with Loss
The passing of a loved one, a relative, or a person close to us, is often devastating.
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.
14 thoughts on “The Ordeal of Inheritance”
what I wanted to ask was lets say my grandfather and grandmother pass way in Greece and leave a family home but leave (no will) and at the time of death leave four children who 2 have since passed and the other 2 are still alive but have not put in claim for their share of the property. In terms of my father 25 percent share of this property and his heirs right to it the only will he left does not make a specific mention of the property in Greece
Do I need a Inheritance Certificate from a greek Court (Κληρονομητήριο) because my grandfather left no will or does a foreign will from Canada which does not actually mention the property (but just refers to all property)have to be probated in a greek probate court.
Thank you for your comment and for the question.
You mention that your grandfather left a will in Canada, which refers to all his property. Can you be a little more specific? Does the will mention something like “all my property anywhere in Canada and in Greece”? Does it purposefully leave out the property in Greece?
If the will can be interpreted as including the property in Greece, then you can probate it in Greece and follow your grandfather’s last wish. If the will was not intended to include the property in Greece, then you will follow the intestate succession and the property will be divided equally among the siblings (25% each). The percentages of two siblings, who have passed away, will be transferred to those person’s legal heirs.
If you have any more questions, please, don’t hesitate to contact me personally, so we can take a closer look at your case.
Dear Mr. Kiosses,
Your blog is very informative and provides a great amount of details.
I would like to ask how long should such process take, i.e. from death to the issuing of the klironomitirio when there is a death will and the inheritees are only 2 people which happen to be the nephews of the deceased?
Hello, Mr. Tzoras.
Thank you for your kind words, your comments, and your question.
On average, the whole process of issuing a “Klironomitirio” (Κληρονομητήριο – Certificate of Heirs) should not take more than two months. If there are any contests or appeals, then the process might take longer.
If you want any assistance with your own case, please, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with more details.
Thank you and have a nice day.
Just found out that my ex who was born in Greece but lives in the US inherited a property in Crete from his father. He has hired a lawyer over there and has already renounced his inheritance. I have just become aware of this and as I understand the situation my children and grandchildren are now the heirs to the property which has over 90,000 euros of debt on it. I understand how my adult children should renounce theirs but how do my grandchildren do it. Their ages range from 11 years old to 1 month old. What steps should my children take as parents to renounce the inheritance for their children? We do not live very close to Greek Consulate.
Hello, Ms. Tzambourakis.
Thank you for your message and for all the information.
Your children (heirs to the deceased) need to renounce their inheritance first. When they do, their minor children are next in line. If they want to renounce on behalf of their children, they need to apply to the appropriate Court in Greece for a release. The Greek Judge will issue an order allowing the parents to renounce on behalf of their minor children.
If you need any assistance, please, send me an email to email@example.com with all the details.
I hope this helps.
Have a nice day.
Hi Christos, we engaged a while ago about what to do with my mother’s share of land on the island of Fourni. So…there is no will from Grandfather. There were seven children. Two of the heirs have died with no children. There are five families left. Unfortunately, two of the families have been selling the land as if it only belongs to them. My cousin and I wanted to see if we can do anything to stop it and maybe recover some of the land. He went to see 2 lawyers in Samos. They both said the same thing “Anything that was sold 2 years prior there is nothing that can be done”. We only have a merida of what has not been sold. I just wanted to do a sanity check to see if this is the case, because I have heard some of these lawyers may have been involved with sales. So, is what they said true? Best Regards Kyriakos
Thank you for your comment and for all the information.
Please, send me an email with all the details, as well as the contact information for the Attorneys you mentioned.
I will reach out to them and let you know what I find out.
Interesting post and information provided. I have acquired my Greek Citizenship as of 2015 and have some work ahead to resolve my circumstance below.
My mother passed away in Feb 2021. She emigrated to Canada in her twenties and married my father and had 2 children. My brother passed in 1993, leaving a spouse and 3 children. Spouse has since remarried. My mother had some inherited properties from her parents and an unmarried sibling, as well as she bought a condo in a suburb of Thessaloniki in 1998 with her third partner who was common-law. Living relatives in Greece are niece and nephews from 2 other siblings.
My mothers partner says the condo they bought together is his. The lawyer my mother and her partner used said he is holding a will to be probated when he receives the Canadian death certificate. You mentioned above that people can “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.” — Who draws up the “benefit of inventory chart”? Are there any other degrees of inheritance acceptance? I am stuck at this point because I lack reliable information and I am being asked by my mothers lawyer if I am accepting my Greece Inheritance.
Any guidance is welcome. Thank you for your efforts to convey such important information to the diaspora.
Thank you very much for your message, for all the information, and for your kind words.
This is a complicated inheritance issue, but it can be easily simplified, if we obtain more information from the Greek Attorney (copies of titles, copy of the Will, etc.).
Please, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your availability for a call, so we can discuss.
Hello. I am 4 th generation Australian. My late husband was born in Kalymnos but had Australian citizenship.his brother passed away in October 2022. I am holding his brothers only will, drawn up in australia 1967. Leaving everything to another brother.who lives in rhodes. I don’t know where to send the origional will, I am afraid it would be lost in mail. Who should I give it to? Or send it? There is no solicitor or notary in my city who handles Greek law.also no Greek consul here. It is not really my problem, but I just want to do the right thing
Hello, Ms. Trikilis.
Thank you for your message.
If the Will was drafted and executed according to Australian Law, then it should be processed (probated or published) through the Australian Court System. After that is done, the Court Order should be officially translated into Greek and presented to a Greek Judge in Greece. The Greek Judge will then issue an Order, which will serve as a proper Greek Will.
I suggest you contact the nearest Greek Consulate and ask them for a few names of Greek/Australian Attorneys, who might assist you.
Hello Christos, My Father passed away 13 months ago leaving property in Greece. He lived in the US. My Mother has told me he didn’t have a will and she asked for my POA. I had to have it translated while at the Greek Consulate and was told that it doesn’t include that I’m renouncing my inheritance, but I don’t want to renounce anything. The POA was just to allow my Mother the ease of dealing with the property and possibly to sell it. Unfortunately my Mother will not provide any property details to me or allow me to speak with the lawyer she’s working with, so now I’ve become concerned with giving her the POA. I really don’t know what to do at this point. Hope you have some suggestions. Thank you, Steve.
Thank you for your message and for the information.
Please, send me an email with your availability, so we can set up a call to discuss. My email address is email@example.com