Wills and Successions Law
The Wills and Succession Law, the Administration of Estates Law and the Probates (Re-Sealing) Law
These laws are also modelled on their English counterparts and they deal with the rights of persons as regards the disposition of their properties after death and the relevant procedures. Persons domiciled in Cyprus may not dispose by will of the whole of their estate if they have a surviving spouse, children or both. The undisposable (statutory) portion is one half of the estate if the deceased leaves a spouse or parent but no children and three quarters of the estate if the deceased leaves children. This restriction on testamentary freedom does not apply to citizens of the United Kingdom or of most other Commonwealth countries apart from Cyprus. In practice, the restriction can be easily overcome by proper forward planning.
With regard to the substance and legal effect of wills the applicable law is, for provisions referring to immovable property, the law of the country or countries where such immovable property is situated (lex rei sitae) and for provisions referring to movable property, the country where the deceased was domiciled at the time of death (lex domicilii) which may not necessarily be the country of residence. The Wills and Succession Law, which applies to the devolution of all immovable property in Cyprus, requires that wills should be in writing and attested by two competent witnesses, and they should reflect clearly the free and true wishes of a sane and competent testator.
Wills may be deposited with the Probate Registrar of the District Court who will issue a receipt to this effect, or may be entrusted for safe keeping with lawyers.
It is advisable that an executor or executors be appointed in the will to carry out the wishes of the testator.
It should be noted that upon the subsequent marriage or divorce of the testator the will should be reviewed and re-executed, in order to avoid any risk of automatic revocation. Testators should also seek legal advice if the executor or any beneficiary changes his name, dies or becomes incompetent to act, or if any property in the estate is subsequently sold or changes its nature, as otherwise the wishes of the testator may not take effect.
Non-Cypriots may set up a trust by will and bequeath the whole of their estate to appointed trustees to hold it in trust for the benefit of beneficiaries and to manage and dispose of it in accordance with the instructions of the testator.
If a person dies intestate or does not appoint an executor in the will, the court will appoint an administrator. If there are heirs under disability the court will appoint at least two administrators.
The administrator administers the estate according to the law, paying the debts of the deceased, collecting and distributing the assets amongst the heirs and accounts to the court. The surviving spouse and any children inherit in equal shares.
The Probates (Re-Sealing) Law makes special provision for persons who die in the United Kingdom or in any British Dominion or Commonwealth country and who, at the time of death, also had property in Cyprus. According to this law, the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by a competent court of such country may be re-sealed in Cyprus and an administrator may be appointed by the court to administer their estate in Cyprus. The intended administrator should accompany his application to the court with copies of the Grant of Probate and will, or the Grant of Letters of Administration, certified as true copies by the issuing court, and a power of attorney of the executor/s or administrator/s appointed by the court. Upon completion of the administration he should file with the court final accounts of his administration, with a declaration by the foreign executor/s or administrator/s that the administration in Cyprus was carried out to their satisfaction.
There are no succession taxes such as inheritance tax in Cyprus for death which occurred on or after 1/1/2000.
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