In Cyprus, an individual can distribute his/her estate by drafting a Will. In case, a deceased person had not prepared a Will during his/her lifetime then his/her estate will be distributing according to the Cyprus Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195. Precisely, the distribution of an estate could be regulated by a Will or according to the Law or both.
The Cyprus Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195 regulates:
- The succession of the estate of physical persons, residents of the Republic of Cyprus.
- The succession of real estate of physical persons, non-residents of the Republic of Cyprus.
Residents of navy, military, aviation or another civil service of the United Kingdom are not considered as residents of the Republic of Cyprus.
Only an adult person of sound mind has the legal capacity to draft a valid Will
According to the article 23, a valid Will is written and executed based on the following principles:
- It is signed by the testator, or by another person authorised by the testator, in the presence of the testator and under his/her command.
- The signature of the testator must be witnessed by two or more witnesses who are present during the procedure.
- The witnesses must also sign the Will in the presence of the testator and of another.
- In case the Will is comprised of more than one page, every page must have the initials of the testator and witnesses. The final page must be signed by the testator and all the witnesses.
- The witnesses must be adult persons of sound mind who can sign their names.
Rectifying a mistake or omission
In case it is detected a mistake or omission in the provisions of the article 23, a grammar or a numerical mistake in the content of the Will, then any interested person may apply to the Court to rectify the mistake or the omission. If the Court is convinced and consider that this is fair under the circumstances, then the relative mistake or omission will be corrected. After the rectification, the Will is considered as valid as it has been rectified by the Court since the date of execution.
The provisions of the subsection 23A (1) are applied to every Will, regardless of the date of execution, under the condition that the Court has not definitively canceled the Will before the entry into force of Wills and Succession (Amendment) Law of 2015.
Restrictions regarding the estate distribution:
The estate is classified as a “disposal portion” and “statutory portion”. In particular, the disposal portion can be allocated as the testator wishes. On the other hand, the statutory portion is reserved for the spouse, children and close relatives of the deceased.
According to article 41, the statutory portion is allocated based on which relatives are alive:
- If the deceased is survived by a child or a descendant of a child, the statutory portion is up to the 75% of the net estate.
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse or parent but not by any children or their descendants, the statutory portion is up to the 50% of the net estate.
- If the deceased is not survived by parent, spouse, child or descendant of the child, then the statutory portion is zero.
In cases where the testator distributes more than the portion he/she is allowed to allocate, that part will be decreased to the portion he/she was allowed to allocate.
Due to the deletion of article 42 the British citizens or citizens of any other Commonwealth countries are subject to the provisions of article 41. In other words, they have no absolute freedom in the disposal of their estate and real estate.
New EU Legislation 650/2012: Cross-Border Successions becomes easier
The existence of different national legislations made cross-border succession procedures complicated and costly. The new EU legislation No. 650/2012 solves some issues by facilitating cross-border successions. Mainly, it clarifies which EU country’s courts will have jurisdiction to deal with the inheritance and which law the Courts will implement. The new regulation applies to all EU countries except for the UK, Ireland and Denmark. In other words, residents in any of these three countries are not subject to the new EU regulations. Nevertheless, British, Irish and Danish citizens living in other EU countries can benefit from the new EU regulations. Consequently, British, Irish and Danish residents in Cyrus can take advantage of the EU legislation 650/2012.
Based on the new rules, the Court of the EU country where the person is based at the time of his/her death will administer inheritance and Will matters following the law of that EU country. Nonetheless, citizens have the right to choose the law of their country of origin to apply to their estate, either it is an EU or a non-EU member-state. It should be mentioned that judgment on inheritance issued in one EU member-state will be automatically recognised in other EU member-states. Furthermore, a European Certificate of Successions allows people to prove in other EU countries that they are the heirs, legatees, executors of the Will or the administrators of the estate.
The new EU legislation covers civil law aspects of the succession, i.e. beneficiaries, transfer of assets, rights, obligations, etc. It does not include matrimonial property regimes, trusts, taxes and companies. The national laws of inheritance still apply for the following matters: who is to inherit and the percentage of the share of estate that goes to children and spouse, property and family law, and tax issues related to the succession assets.
The new EU rules have several advantages such as:
- It provides legal clarity and facilitates the resolution of cross-border inheritances more efficiently and effectively.
- Citizens drafting a will may choose to have the law of the country of origin applied to the totality of their estate, even if they live in another EU member-state and have property in different countries. Moreover, the new legislation makes easier the succession planning.
- The European Certificate of Succession enables citizens to prove their rights anywhere in the EU.