Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to renounce your inheritance in Greece by Christos Iliopoulos

Usually, every heir entitled to an inheritance share wants to claim it by signing the necessary legal paperwork to obtain ownership of the inherited assets, in order to use, develop, or sell them. Most legal fights erupt once someone passes away, because each of the heirs wants to gain ownership over the largest possible share of the estate.
However, in some other cases what is happening is exactly the opposite. One or more heirs do not want to exercise their right to an inheritance for various reasons. Sometimes one of the siblings has received enough money or assets from the parents, so that when the parents pass away, that sibling wants to renounce his/her share, in favour of the other siblings.
Many people of Greek descent, who live outside of Greece, find that they are entitled to a share of their parents’ (or uncle’s – aunt’s etc.) inheritance in Greece, which they do not want to obtain. In most cases the heirs, who want to renounce their inheritance share, presume that they can do it whenever they choose, even years after the death of their parents, by signing a document stating that they do not want their share and, possibly, that they wish that their share goes to that sibling or that niece or nephew.
However, things under Greek law are not that simple. In Greece, you can’t validly renounce your inheritance share whenever you want. The basic principle is that you are entitled to renounce your share within a period of four months from the time you learned about the inheritance share. Usually, that means a period of four months from the time the deceased passed away, or four months from the time his/her will was probated at the court.
If the heir lives outside of Greece, or if the deceased died outside of Greece, the time limit within which you have the right to renounce your inheritance share is extended to one year. In order to renounce your share you must sign specific paperwork at the court in Greece, or at the Greek Consulate near your residence, outside of Greece. You can’t just write a letter to the other siblings expressing your will to renounce.
If you do not validly renounce the inheritance share which you are entitled to, within four or twelve months from the time you learned about the inheritance, it is presumed that you have accepted the inheritance. In other words, while to renounce your share you must actively sign documents at the court in Greece or at the Greek Consulate, to accept the inheritance you just have to let the time limit expire and then you are considered an heir to the inheritance.
There are many cases where one or more siblings advise that they do not want their share over the inheritance of their parents or of other relatives, who died many years ago in Greece, because they want to give their share to the other siblings or to their children. In such cases, those who want to renounce, can’t do it, because many years have passed, the time limit to renounce the inheritance has expired and now Greek law says that they have accepted the inheritance. In order to give up their share, they have to follow a different legal path.
What they have to do is officially accept their inheritance share in Greece and then, either immediately transfer it to the other heirs, or sell the common property to a third party and give all the money to the other heirs. This is done by signing, (either in person, or usually through a power of attorney), various court, tax and notary documents in Greece, by which the heir accepts his/her share first, becomes owner of the inherited property but subsequently gives it to the other heirs, by donation or other form of legal transfer.

Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at
the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.

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