Property, Ownership, Inheritance, and other Legal Matters
INHERITANCE AND ESTATE PLANNING IN GREECE
What you do not know could cost those you love dearly!

While a brief article cannot possibly describe all of the differences between
inheritance and estate planning under the laws of Greece and analogous
procedures of the Anglo-American legal system, anyone potentially affected by the
inheritance laws of the Hellenic Republic should at the very least be aware of four
major differences.

I.  GREEK LAW CAN DESIGNATE SOME HEIRS AND PERCENTAGES
A person considering the planning of his/her estate in Greece should bear in mind
that, in the absence of a valid will, the laws of Greece stipulate specific heirs and
percentages of the estate inherited thereby, based on the  relationship of those heirs
to the person whose estate is being inherited. The list of potential heirs is extensive,
however, an indicative example is the case of a person who is survived by a spouse
and two children. In the absence of a valid will, the surviving spouse inherits one
fourth of the estate. He/she also receives an “additional portion” consisting of the
furniture, household goods, clothing, family automobile etc. used by the surviving
spouse or by both spouses. The remaining estate is distributed in equal portions by
the decedent's children, irrespective of whether they were born in different marriages
or whether they were born out of wedlock. In the event that the decedent is a father,
the child(ren) born out of wedlock must have been acknowledged by the natural
father being inherited.

II.  A WILL CAN BE INVALIDATED, UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES
Similarly, a person considering the planning of his/her estate by virtue of a will   
should be aware of the risk of having that will subsequently invalidated if any of the  
“forced heirs” is excluded from inheriting under the will.  By law, the forced heirs
include  the descendants of the person making the will, the surviving spouse of that
person or the parents thereof, in the event that there are no descendants and/or
surviving spouse. A forced heir is entitled to receive one half of the share which
he/she would have received if he/she were inheriting under the law, in the absence
of a will. While it is possible for a testator to “disinherit” a forced heir, the law
stipulates a number of specific “just causes” which allow a testator to deprive a
forced heir of his/her mandatory share. Indicatively, a testator may disinherit his/her
descendant for leading an immoral or infamous life against the will of the testator. A
testator may disinherit his/her parent, inter alia, if the parent in question maliciously
neglected his/her obligation to support the testator.

III.  HEIRS TAKE ON ANY DEBTS AS WELL
A person who stands to inherit under the laws of the Hellenic Republic should know
that the decedent's estate passes to the heir with all of that estate's advantages and
burdens. As a result, upon explicitly or implicitly accepting his/her inheritance, an heir
becomes personally liable for the charges and debts of the inherited estate. In order
to avoid assuming debt of which the heir is aware, he/she may chose to renounce
the inheritance by so declaring before the court located in the area of the decedent's
place of domicile. Greek law allows for heirs who have doubts regarding the
solvency of the estate to alternatively accept the inheritance “under the benefit of
inventory” by presenting a related declaration to the same court. In essence,
accepting an inheritance “under the benefit of inventory” requires the heir to
relinquish the estate to the extent necessary to satisfy the creditors, in order for the
heir to be discharged from personal liability for the debts of the estate. It should be
noted, however, that the heir risks loosing the benefits of the latter acceptance if
he/she does not strictly adhere to the formalities and requirements  of “acceptance
under the benefit of inventory”.  

IV.  STRICT DEADLINES APPLY FOR INHERITANCE PROCEDURE
In addition to strictly adhering to the formalities entailed, a person who stands to
inherit under the laws of the Hellenic Republic should be aware that those laws
contemplate numerous significant deadlines. For example, an heir is obligated to
renounce his/her inheritance within four months of learning of the potential
inheritance or within one year of learning of the potential inheritance (if either the
decedent resided abroad or the heir learned of the potential inheritance while
residing abroad).

* This original article written by Arsinoi D. Lainioti.  Please feel free to print, distribute,
and share this article for non-profit purposes only.  If you wish to use this article in a
publication, whether online or print, ensure that you credit the author and include a
link to www.lainioti-lawoffices.com.  Thank you!