Cyprus Succession Law – Wills, Probate, Estate Administration

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Overview of Cyprus Succession Law

This guide offers a detailed exploration of the Cyprus Succession Law, (Wills, Probate and Administration of Estate) breaking down the legal structure, processes, and subtleties involved in the allocation of estates in Cyprus. It thoroughly discusses succession through wills and in the absence of a will, shedding light on important concepts like domicile requirements, forced heirship rules, and how assets are divided among beneficiaries. This guide is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand the intricacies of succession laws in Cyprus.

Legislative Framework and Coverage

Succession in Cyprus is governed by key legislations:

The laws of succession in Cyprus apply to two main groups:

  • A deceased who passed away while domiciled in Cyprus, and
  • A deceased who was not domiciled in Cyprus but who owned immovable assets in Cyprus such as an investment.

For those domiciled in Cyprus at their time of death, the succession laws apply to their entire estate, including both movable and immovable properties.

Conversely, for those not domiciled in Cyprus, the laws only apply to their immovable properties within Cyprus.

Our law firm’s website provides comprehensive rules on creating a Valid Will and Managing a Deceased Person’s Estate, including will execution and probate processes.

Understanding Forced Heirship in Cyprus

Under Cyprus law, individuals cannot distribute their property freely upon death due to the enforced heirship regime. The Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195 specifies a “statutory portion” reserved for immediate family members and a “disposable portion” that the deceased  can bequeath freely.

The distribution of the “disposable portion” is as follows:

  • One-quarter (1/4) of the property if the deceased leaves behind a spouse and child(ren) or descendants of the child or children;
  • Half (½) of the property if the deceased has left a spouse and a parent or parents,
  • The entirety of the estate can be disposed of freely if there are no surviving spouse, child(ren), grandchildren, or parent(s).

Thus, in the absence of a spouse, children, or parents, an individual has the right to allocate its property to anyone they choose. This is outlined in Article 41(1) of the Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195.

Intestate Succession (Without a Will)

In the absence of a will, estate distribution is governed as follows:

  • Spouses and children inherit equal portions of the estate;
  • Should there be a surviving spouse along with a parent or the parent’s descendants up to the third degree (this includes the deceased’s siblings, as well as nieces and nephews), the spouse is entitled to half of the estate;
  • If the deceased has left a spouse and fourth-degree relatives, the spouse gets ¾ of the property.
  • In cases where there is a surviving spouse but no other relatives, the entire estate goes to the spouse.
  • After allocating the spouse’s portion, the remainder is evenly divided among other heirs as outlined in Article 44 of the Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195. Additional details on kinship degrees can be found in Appendix 2 of the Wills and Succession Law at Cylaw.

Special Provisions for Estate Distribution, religious institutions, guardians of children, gifts in contemplation of death

  • Bequeathing to Religious Institutions: It’s permissible to leave a property to religious institutions if stipulated in a will at least three months before passing, and this is applicable when the deceased has up to third-degree relatives (Article 33).
  • Guardianship Assignments: The deceased may designate a guardian for minor children, with the provision that the court reserves the right to appoint a different guardian if necessary (Article 34).
  • Gifts Made in Anticipation of Death (Donatio Mortis Causa): These are revocable gifts made under the belief of impending death, which are transferred posthumously unless the donor survives or recovers from the anticipated cause of death (Article 40).

Tax Considerations in Cyprus

Cyprus is notable for not imposing any inheritance, estate, or gift taxes, providing a more straightforward approach to asset distribution. For a deeper understanding of the Cyprus taxation system, further reading is recommended.

The Role of Trusts in Estate Planning

An alternative to a will, a trust allows for the management and distribution of assets for the benefit of a third party, often a minor. Trusts can complement wills, providing a flexible mechanism for estate planning. Within a trust, individuals known as trustees manage the assets on behalf of a beneficiary, who holds the beneficial interest in the trust assets. Typically, trustees control the assets until a specified condition is met, such as the beneficiary reaching legal adulthood, at which point the legal ownership is transferred to the beneficiary. Trusts can be utilized for various purposes, including:

  • Managing assets for minors or future family generations.
  • Establishing a family fund.
  • Making confidential provisions.
  • Supporting charitable causes.
  • Paternity and Succession

Paternity and Legal Succession

The Children (Relationship and Legal Status) Law of 1991 outlines the Cyprus legal framework for paternity issues and their implications for succession. A frequent scenario involves a child born outside of marriage, with the father not acknowledging paternity.

  • Voluntary Recognition: A father may choose to acknowledge a child born outside of marriage through a process requiring the mother’s consent, either via a sworn declaration to the Court Registrar or through a will (Articles 16-17).
  • Judicial Recognition: The mother of the child may initiate a court process for recognition. This process remains viable even   posthumously against the man’s heirs, allowing for the child’s rights to be asserted (Article 20). After the man has died judicial recognition is possible. The application is filed against the man’s heirs in such a case. (Article 21).
  • Legal Implications of Recognition: Once recognized, the child is entitled to all legal rights from birth, irrespective of whether recognition was voluntary or judicial (Article 23). This ensures the child’s access to inheritance and other legal benefits.

British Expatriates and Cyprus Succession Laws

For British expatriates owning immovable property in Cyprus, the Cyprus succession laws are applicable regardless of their UK domicile status, although this is subject to EU regulations. Should a British expat be domiciled in Cyprus, then Cyprus succession laws will govern the distribution of their entire estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a British expat, if I inherit property under a Cyprus will, am I liable for inheritance tax?

No, you are not liable for inheritance tax, except for individuals who returned to the UK and became residents again after April 6, 2017.

Is inheritance tax applicable to all properties in the UK?

No, estates valued below £325,000 are exempt from inheritance tax (this is the basic threshold or nil-rate band), and this threshold is fixed until April 2026. Additionally, there’s a residence nil-rate band (RNRB) of £175,000, which applies when a property is bequeathed to direct descendants like children or grandchildren. Properties left to nieces, nephews, or other relatives do not qualify for the RNRB.

European Union Law: Choice of Law

EU legislation allows for the validation of wills and declarations if they adhere to the laws of:

  • The EU country where the individual most recently resided, or
  • The national law of the individual’s country of nationality, should they choose it.

Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 from July 4, 2012, addresses jurisdiction issues (which court will execute the will or handle intestacy), permits a choice of law within specified limits, and establishes a European Certificate of Succession.

Summary of EU Succession Regulation

Jurisdiction in Succession Matters:

The jurisdiction for succession cases falls to the courts in the Member State where the deceased primarily resided, essentially where they lived at the time of their death (Article 4).

Right to Choose Applicable Law:

Individuals have the conditional right to select the legal system that governs their succession. This means they can opt for the law of their nationality to apply to their estate, irrespective of their residence in a different Member State at the time of death. This option includes laws from non-EU countries but is restricted to prevent deliberate evasion of one’s home country’s succession laws (Articles 22 on choice of law, Article 20 on universal application, and Recital 38).

Making a Choice of Law:

The selection of which legal system to apply must be explicitly stated in a written declaration or through a specific provision in a will, ensuring clarity and precision in expressing this preference, as advised by Your Europe (europa.eu) (Recital 39).

Multiple Nationalities:

For individuals holding more than one nationality, there is the flexibility to choose the law of any of their countries of nationality (Article 22(1)).

European Certificate of Succession:

This certificate is provided by the Member State responsible for handling the succession and is acknowledged throughout the EU. Cyprus, being an EU member, recognizes this certificate, which simplifies the process for heirs to claim assets in other Member States without needing to navigate additional legal procedures (Articles 65-70).


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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. For more detailed information and personal legal guidance, please contact us.


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