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Succession in Cyprus is governed by two main pieces of national legislation, namely the Wills and Succession Law (Cap. 195) and of the Administration of Deceased’s Estate Law (Cap. 189). In addition, as a member of the European Union, Cyprus applies European law on succession matters, such as the EU Succession Regulation (650/2012). 

Applicability of Cyprus law on succession

In order for Cyprus laws to apply and govern issues of succession in relation to a deceased individual, it is relevant to establish (i) whether such person has left a will, in which a specific law is chosen as the applicable law; (ii) the domicile of the person at the time of death; and (iii) the nature of the assets left behind. The term “domicile” is often used in succession matters when seeking to establish which law is applicable to the estate of a deceased person. Domicile is the status of having a permanent residence and the intention to reside in a specific jurisdiction. Generally, every person maintains a domicile of origin until such domicile is lost by virtue of choice, in which case a domicile of choice is acquired. According to section 5 of Cap. 195, Cyprus law also governs the succession of immovable property situated in the Republic of Cyprus, even for persons not having their domicile in Cyprus. If a person is domiciled in Cyprus, then Cap. 195 regulates the succession in relation to the movable property, whether in Cyprus or abroad, as well as the succession in immovable property located in Cyprus. If immovable property is not in Cyprus then the law of the country where the property is located applies.

Methods of succession under Cyprus succession law

The estate of a deceased person may be disposed or distributed by virtue of a will or without a will. The right of a person to dispose his estate in accordance with the provisions of his Will is not absolute and is limited to the “disposable part”. A person who dies without leaving a will dies intestate and his estate may be distributed through an administration process to his relatives based on the degree of their relationship. Through an administration procedure supervised by the Cyprus Courts exercising their probate jurisdiction, the estate property will be distributed.

The validity of a will

According to Cyprus law, in order for a will to be valid the testator must be above 18 years old and be of sound mind. In addition, section 23 of Cap. 195 sets out a number of formalities that need to be adhered for a will to be valid. The validity of a will may be disputed if it was executed by virtue of duress, fraud or undue influence. After the will is signed by the testator and properly witnessed, the testator may (and it is advisable to) file the will with the Court Registry. This practice often reduces the possibility to challenge successfully a will and, at the same time, preserves confidentiality of the existence and content of the will.

Disposable portion of estate and forced heirship

Cyprus law aims to protect family bonds and, in that regard, it imposes restrictions on the freedom of the testator to dispose the estate by will and allows disposal only of a portion of the estate, also known as the "disposable portion".   Protected persons include close relatives, namely the spouse, children or grandchildren or parents, for whom a substantial part of the estate of the deceased is guaranteed under the regime of forced heirship. A will that violates the rights of lawful heirs to the non disposable parts of the estate is not void but the disposable part will be limited accordingly to preserve the rights of the legal heirs. If there are children and a spouse, the net value of the inheritance will be distributed to the spouse and children in equal parts. If there are no children or descendants, the share of the spouse will increase, depending on whether there are other relatives up to the fourth degree of kinship.

Revocation and revival of wills

A will might be revoked by a subsequent will which expressly revoke the previous one. A will might also be revoked by a subsequent will which is inconsistent with the provisions of the previous will, to the extent that the provisions of the wills are inconsistent. Finally, a will might be revoked by burning, tearing or by any other means of destruction by the testator or by any other person in the presence and by the direction of the testator. The said actions must be made with the intention to revoke the will. Furthermore, a will is deemed to be revoked in cases where the testator gets married after the execution of the will. A will might also be deemed to be revoked in cases where the first born child of the testator is born after the execution of the will. However, such marriage and birth shall not be deemed to revoke the will, if it is clear that the will was made with the prospect of the marriage and birth. Α subsequent will recalls the former. If the latter is invalid, the former shall apply.

Letters of Administration and appointment of executor or personal representative

If the deceased person has left a will, then the executor of the will apply for a grant of probate. If there is no will, then a close relative of the deceased such as a spouse or a child can apply for the letters of administration. In Cyprus, a lawyer can apply for the letters of administration through the use of a power of attorney from a close relative of the deceased. The intended administrator has to file to Court together with the application a number of documents such as a death certificate, a certificate of heirs and other documents. When the letters of administration have been obtained, the intended administrator must collect all information in regards to the assets and liabilities of the estate and file statements to Court declaring these assets and debts of the deceased and to inform the Court about the course of the administration procedure. Moreover, the administrator must pay any taxes due to the authorities, such as income tax or tax for immovable property and obtain discharge from the tax authorities. After obtaining discharge from the tax authorities the administrator can distribute the estate to the beneficiaries and file to Court final accounts and close the administration. The right to execute the disposition of property upon the death of the deceased is vested in the executor and if the executor dies or is not interested, the right is vested in anyone with a legal interest in the estate, e.g. a legatee or heir.

Inheritance tax

There is no inheritance tax for people who passed away after 1/1/2000 when inheritance tax was abolished. But there is inheritance tax for properties of a person who passed away before 1/1/2000. In any case, the executor of the will or property administrator of a deceased person who has passed away after 1/1/2000 is obliged to settle the tax liabilities of the deceased, obtain tax clearances and comply with a number of other obligations set out in relevant tax laws (Law 78(1)/2000).

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