Cyprus: Basic Aspects Of Cyprus Inheritance And Succession Law

Last Updated: 5 December 2016
Article by Antonis Paschalides

When does the Cyprus law apply in relation to wills and succession?
In order for the Cyprus inheritance and succession law to apply, the deceased must be domiciled in Cyprus at the time of his/her death. However, Cyprus law may be applied and regulate succession of movable property that is situated in Cyprus, even though the deceased had his/her domiciled aboard.
Who is entitled to draw up a will?
According to Cyprus law, in order for a will to be valid the testator must be above 18 years old and he/she must be of sound mind.
Are there any requirements that have to be fulfilled in order for a Will to be valid?
A will must be in writing and must be executed in a certain way. First of all, it must be signed at the bottom or at the end by the testator or by someone else who acts on behalf of the testator in his presence and by his command. Furthermore, the signature must be put or must be acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses who must be present at the same time. The said witnesses must attest and countersign the will in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other. Finally, each sheet of the will must be signed or be initialled by or on behalf of the testator and the witnesses.
The witnesses must be age 18, or above, must be of sound mind and they must also be able to sign their names.
Is it possible for a witness to be also a legatee?
According to Cyprus law, a bequest in a will in favour of the witness or in favour of the witness's husband, wife or child, is void and with no legal effect.
What happens if a will is drawn up by duress, fraud or undue influence?
A will or any part of a will is void and without legal effect if it is drawn up by duress, fraud or undue influence.
Is a testator free to leave his/her estate to a religious institution?
A testator that is not a Moslem and that he/she has relatives up to a third degree, can leave a bequest to a religious institution only by a will that is executed at least three months before his/her date of death.

Which legacies could be deemed void according to Cyprus law?
A legacy is void if it is made to a person who is not in existence when the testator dies or if a definite intention is not expressed. However, Cyprus law provides specifically for the child of the testator. In particular, the law provides that a legacy made to a child of the testator who is born after the death of the testator is valid.
Is it possible for a Will to be revoked?
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. It is worth noting that according to the Court case Kathitzioti , for the will to be revoked, it is necessary the physical presence of the testator at the time of the destruction. The presence of a representative of the testator in the absence of the testator cannot satisfy the provisions of law.
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.
Does Cyprus law impose any restrictions on the freedom of the testator to dispose his/her estate by will?
A basic aim of Cyprus law is the protection of the family, so the law imposes restrictions on the freedom of the testator to dispose his/her estate by will and it allows him/her to dispose only a portion of the estate (known as the "disposable portion").
Specifically, if a person dies leaving spouse and child, or spouse and descendant of a child, or no spouse but child or descendant of a child then the disposable portion must not exceed the ¼ of the net value of the estate.
Whether a person dies leaving spouse or father or mother but no child or descendant of a child, then the disposable portion must not exceed the ½ of the net value of the estate.
The only way a person is able to dispose all of his/her estate freely is where he/she dies leaving neither a spouse, nor a child, nor a descendant of a child, nor a father, nor a mother. In that cases, he/she is free to dispose by will all of his/her estate.
It is worth stating that in cases where a testator disposed more than the disposable portion, the will is not void but the portion is reduced to the disposable portion. However, when a person dies leaving only a spouse, but neither child or descendant of a child, nor father or mother and he/she leaves to his/her spouse a portion that exceeds the disposable portion, no reduction is necessary.
The abovementioned do not apply in cases of a will of a person who was born in the United Kingdom or whose father was born in the United Kingdom or in a member state of the Commonwealth. Moreover, the abovementioned do not apply regarding the disposal of movable property of an alien regardless if he/she was domiciled in Cyprus.
How does Cyprus law regulate the rights of the surviving spouse?
According to Cyprus law, after the repayment of any debts or liabilities of the estate, the surviving spouse is entitled to a share in the statutory portion (the part of the estate that cannot be disposed by will) and in the part of the disposable portion that remains undisposed, if any.
Specifically, if the deceased leaves except from the spouse, a child or a descendant of a child, they all receive equal shares.
If the deceased leaves neither a child nor a descendant of a child but he/she leaves an ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant within the third degree of kinship, the share of the surviving spouse will be ½.
If the deceased leaves no child or descendant of a child, or any ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant within the third degree of kinship, but leaves an ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant within the fourth degree of kinship, then the share of the surviving spouse will be ¾.
If, however, the deceased leaves no child or descendant of a child, nor any ascendant or a descendant of an ascendant within the fourth degree of kinship, then the share of the surviving spouse will be the whole statutory portion and the whole part of the disposable portion that remains undisposed.
How does Cyprus law regulate the succession of the deceased's relatives in his/her estate?
After the calculation of the portion of the spouse, the remaining of the statutory portion and of the the disposable portion that remains undisposed, if any, will be distributed to the relatives of the deceased according to the degree of kinship. Specifically, there are four classes of kinship. Members of a class exclude the members of the next class.
The first class of kinship includes the children of the deceased who are alive at the time of his/her death. The said children will receive equal shares. The first class also includes the living descendants of a deceased child of the deceased at the time of his/her death. The said descendants will inherit equal shares per stripes. The phrase "per stripes" means that the descendants of a deceased child will equally inherit the share that their deceased mother/father would otherwise have inherited if the mother/father was alive.
The second class includes the living mother and father of the deceased (or if they are not alive at the time of death of the deceased, the closest living ascendant) and also the siblings or the half brothers or sisters of the deceased. The said persons inherit in equal shares except from the half brothers or sisters who will receive the ½ of the share that the siblings will receive. In cases of a deceased brother or sister, then his/her descendant will inherit equal shares per stripes.
The third class includes the closest in degree of kinship living ascendants of the deceased. In cases where at the time of death of the deceased there are living ascendants from both sides, i.e from the maternal and from the paternal side then the ascendant of each side will receive half of the share. If the ascendants of each side are more than one, then the half share will be distributed in equal shares.
The fourth class includes the closest in degree of kinship living ascendants within the sixth degree of kinship. However, the closest relative excludes others. The persons in the fourth class inherit equal shares.
How does Cyprus law regulate the administration of estate?
When a deceased dies intestate, the Court may authorize one or more persons to administrate the estate of the said deceased. In order for this to happen, the said persons should first file to the Registry of the Court a relative application and the Court will grant them with the "letters of administration".
Where a person has drawn up a will, he/she may appoint the executor(s) of the will. The appointed executors or other persons who are entitled to issue probate or to be granted with letters of administration with will annexed, shall file a relative application to the Registry of the Court.
Where should an application for the issuance of probates or for the issuance of letters of administration be filed?
The said application must be filed to the Registry of the District Court where the deceased had his/her place of permanent residence at the time of his/her death.
What should be stated in the application?
In the application it must be stated the personal information of the heirs of the deceased such as their names and their relationship with the deceased and also the value of the movable and immovable property of the deceased. Furthermore, the person applying for the granting of the letters of administration must swore by an affidavit about the date of death of the deceased and the estimated value of the property and that he/she will administrate the estate of the deceased according to the law. Furthermore, another person shall sign an affidavit as a guarantor of the right and according to the law administration of the deceased's estate by the person applying for the granting of the letters of administration.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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