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Inheritance Law and Tax in Greece

Zeus and the other Greek gods claimed immortality, but in reality they were no more immortal than you or I and one issue that needs to be considered by every foreign property buyer is what will happen on their death to their Greek Island property. Whilst Greek inheritance laws are straight forward where foreigners are concerned, they may be different laws to your own country, but one thing that will remain the same is that even in death there are taxes to be paid.

Inheritance Taxes

The Greek state will levy inheritance tax on the recipients of your estate in respect and the exact amount will be calculated on your death based on the market value of the asset inherited. Each beneficiary will have to pay their share of the inheritance tax according to how much they are left. Your debts, funeral expenses and any care you received are all deductible from the inheritance tax.
The Greek state has set out three categories of heirs, determined by their relationship to you. The first category is made up of immediate family members and your immediate extended family i.e.  spouses, children, grandchildren and parents. The second is made up of other relatives like grandparents, sisters, brothers, stepsisters, stepbrothers, foster parents, in-laws and children from a husband’s previous marriage. Category three is the catch-all for those not included in groups one and two.
Categories one and two are taxed at a flat rate of 1% on any inherited real property. Heirs belonging to group one can inherit up to 95,000 Euros before being taxed, whilst the limit is only 20,000 Euros for those in category two. Category three heirs are not taxed up to 6,000 Euros and thereafter are taxed progressively at the following rates: 6, 000 – 72,000 Euros – 20%, 72,000 – 267,000 Euros – 30%, Over €267,000 – 40%.

Inheritance Law

Inheritance law regarding in Greece is determined according to the laws of the country you belong to at the time of death; thus if you were a British passport holder at the time of your death then British law will prevail. If the law of your native country states that the laws of the country you reside in should prevail (not the case for UK citizens) then your property will be disposed of according to Greek law. Thus if a British citizen dies intestate the Greek courts will dispose of your property according to British law.
If you have dual nationality i.e. Greek and British citizenship, your property will be disposed of according to the laws of the country where the property is located e.g. your Greek home will be disposed of under Greek law and your UK residence according to British law. Spouses rights are determined by either their last nationality or their last country of residence or failing these, the country, which they are most closely connected to. Inheritance issues are decided by the Single-Member Court of First Instance known in Greek as the Monomeles Protodikeio. They will rule over probate issues, but if you are non resident in Greece the Single-Member Court of First Instance in Athens will rule over your estate. It takes up to one year to rule over inheritance cases, which are not contested. If children inherit your property and they are not of legal age then a guardian must be appointed to act on their behalf – if you haven’t appointed one then the Single-Member Court of First Instance will decide on one. If your spouse is Greek then Greek law may apply especially if the islands were your permanent residence. If you divorced your Greek spouse they may still have a claim on your property providing they can prove they made a material contribution to it. You may if you wish sign over your property during your lifetime i.e. before you die. This works if you are not subject to Greek law on your death i.e. if you hold a foreign passport at the time of your death.

Dying Intestate

No matter where you die it is always sensible to leave a will stating your intentions regarding your estate. This will avoid messy issues for those left behind and remove any misunderstandings. If you die intestate, Greek inheritance law will be applied to your estate. Inheritance for intestate heirs in Greece is determined according to six categories: The first group consists of your descendants; your spouse, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The closes descendant removes the claim of all other remote descendants. Your spouse is entitled to a quarter of your estate, with the rest divided between your children if there are any if not the rest will go down the line to grandchildren etc. The second group is made up of your parents, siblings and the children and grandchildren of those siblings who are already dead. The third group consists of your grandparents if they are still living or their children and grandchildren. Group four is made up of your great grandparents and the fifth group your spouse inherits the whole estate. In the absence of any relatives the state of the nationality to which you belonged on death inherits the whole estate. As you can see, it is far more sensible to make a will no matter how much time you think you have. You do not need to make a Greek will although you can if you wish to. Greek law recognizes three types of will; a holographic will, which you write, sign and date yourself, a public will, which is made at a notaries in front of the notary and two other witnesses and a secret will, which you sign and hand to the notary in a sealed envelope in the presence of two other witnesses.