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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 November 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2016 27 LEGAL ADVICE Making a Will to be applied in Greece If you live abroad and have assets in Greece, the formalities of writing a Will can be a complicated process. An attorney from the Supreme Court of Greece has the answers on all you need to know CHRISTOS ILIOPOULOS If you live in Greece and you want to make a Will for properties in Greece, you will seek advice from a local lawyer. But if you live outside of Greece and you have property in Greece, making a Will to be applied in Greece requires particular attention on your part, if you want to avoid implementation problems under Greek law and administrative practice. If you have already made a Will in another country, or you are thinking of making one and you have received legal advice in that country on how it is best to draft it, you are good as far as the laws of succession apply in that country, the relevant tax and legal matters and how the beneficiaries of your Will will actually receive their share. However, it is not certain that your last foreign Will and Testament will be 100 per cent applicable in Greece, no matter how well it has been drafted in that foreign country. In most cases the Will, which has been drafted, signed and notarised and/or witnessed in the foreign country, will also be valid in Greece (provided that after the passing of the testator, it is also probated by the court or other authority in that country). But once we start reading the foreign Will in Greece, and we try to explain its provisions to a Greek notary and taxman, the actual implementation of these provisions with regards to assets located in Greece may not be that clear, either due to different laws or the lack of legal notions in Greece, which exist in the other country and vice versa. The first example that comes to mind is the notion of trust. In many countries the creation of a trust with someone's Will is a simple legal issue. A trust with various terms and conditions is what many lawyers and accountants in some countries advise their client about, especially when the testator wants to leave capital, bank accounts, or a profitgenerating company or asset to a spouse, children or grandchildren etc. so that the heirs receive their share not in one lump sum, but throughout the course of several years, or after becoming of age (18 or 21 years old). A Will made outside of Greece, which sets up a trust, will not be easily interpreted and understood in Greece. If the trust takes the money or the assets after the passing of the testator and it is provided that they will give it to the heirs at certain periods of time in the future, under Greek law it may not be very clear who the immediate heir is. If the heir is to get the asset later than the passing of the testator, then who is the immediate heir? In Greek law there is the notion that someone may inherit initially, but with an obligation to pass the asset to someone else after a certain event happens or a certain time passes. But in that case, we would have to consider the trust as the immediate heir, which creates all sorts of legal and practical problems with the Greek tax office, the notary, and the land registry. Another common problem with the interpretation of a foreign Will is when it states that the asset will be given to the heirs not immediately after the passing of the testator, but after a certain period of time, for example when the heir becomes 21 years old (provided at the time of the passing, the heir is younger). In that case, Greek law does not easily understand who will take the asset from the time of passing until the heir reaches the age of 21, if the Will does not indicate further details in writing. In other countries, such as Australia and the USA among others, the answer could possibly be that the asset will be taken by the executor of the Will and it will be given to the heir once they become 21. But a Greek court does not see it as that simple, and quite often Wills with similar provisions are not accepted for implementation and the issue of letters of administration by the Greek court system. In those cases the Will has to pass through a special procedure where the court will have to first interpret the Will before it can be decided who gets the asset, who pays the inheritance tax, to whom the bank will give the balance of the account, who registers the property at the land registry and what happens when the actual heir becomes of age a few years down the road. To avoid all of the above, those who live outside of Greece and want to make a Will in another country must remember to either review their foreign Will with a Greek lawyer so as to identify and fix potential problems under Greek law, or to make another Will, exclusively for their assets in Greece, after they receive advice on Greek inheritance and probate law. For more information, visit www.greekadvocate.eu or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com * Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.
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