Updated: February 21, 2024
This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth overview of Cyprus Succession Law. It details the legislative framework, procedures, and nuances of estate distribution in Cyprus, addressing both will-based and intestate successions. The text clarifies vital concepts such as domicile criteria, forced heirship regimes, and the distribution of assets among heirs, offering valuable insights for those navigating the complexities of succession in Cyprus.
Table of Contents ˅
The relevant legislation for succession in Cyprus is:
If the deceased was domiciled in Cyprus, then Cyprus Succession law applies to all their property, movable or immovable.
If the deceased was not domiciled in Cyprus, then Cyprus Succession law applies to their immovable property in Cyprus.
How is a person “domiciled” in Cyprus? By origin or by choice.
“By choice” does not mean just living in Cyprus. It means establishing a permanent home or planning to stay in Cyprus indefinitely. A person is not domiciled in Cyprus if they live in Cyprus only because they serve in the British military forces.
Succession can be done by will (if the deceased has left a will) or according to intestacy rules (if the deceased has left no will).
Almost anything can be left in a will – land, money, items. Any person who is over 18 and is of sound mind (full mental ability and mental health) can make a will.
You can find all the rules about making a valid will and dealing with a deceased person’s estate (execution of the will or probate) on our firm’s website at:
It is essential to note that a person cannot leave their property in any way they like under Cyprus law. There is a “forced heirship regime” in Cyprus.
The Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195, creates a “statutory portion” that must be left to the immediate relatives and a “disposable portion” that can be left to anyone.
This means that a part of the property must go to the deceased’s “lawful heirs” (heirs recognised by law, that is, immediate family and spouse).
The “disposable portion”, which the deceased is free to leave to anyone, is determined as follows:
¼ of the property if the deceased has left spouse and child(ren) or descendants of the child or children;
½ if the deceased has left a spouse and a parent or parents; and,
The whole of the property if there is no spouse, child, descendant of child, or parent(s).
Therefore, if the deceased has left no spouse, children, or parent(s), they can leave their property to anyone.
Relevant law: Article 41(1) of the Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195.
If the deceased has not left a will, the property is divided as follows:
Note: after the spouse’s share is taken out, the rest is divided equally among the remaining heirs.
Relevant law: Article 44 of the Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195.
For an explanation of the degrees of kinship, see Appendix 2 of the Wills and Succession Law: http://www.cylaw.org/.
Under Cyprus law, it is possible to leave property to a religious institution. However, if the deceased has relatives up to the third degree of kinship, they must leave the property in a will at least 3 months before the death (Article 33 Wills and Succession Law).
The deceased can appoint a guardian for their child or children. However, the court may remove the guardian and select another (Article 34).
A gift in contemplation of death, called “donatio mortis causa”, is a gift made when the donor expects to die. The gift will be given to the recipient after the donor’s death (Article 40).
The gift in contemplation of death is revocable (you can take it back). The gift can be revoked if the donor does not die or recovers from illness.
Cyprus has no inheritance, estate, or gift tax.
Read more about Cyprus taxation system.
Instead of a will, a person can create what is called “a trust”.
In a trust, it is possible to hold property for the advantage of a third person. This third person is often a child (a minor).
A trust may be created together with a will (complimentary).
In a trust, persons called trustees hold property on behalf of another person called the beneficiary. The trustees hold the legal title to the property, while the beneficiary holds what is called a beneficial title.
Often, the trustees hold the property until an event happens, for example, until the beneficiary becomes 18 years of age. At this point, the legal title to the property is transferred to the beneficiary.
The Children (Relationship and Legal Status) Law 1991 governs the area of paternity and succession. The most common situation is when a child is born out of marriage (“out of wedlock”), but the father will not recognise it.
A man can later recognise a child born out of marriage in a process called voluntary recognition. The mother must agree to this kind of recognition. It can be done by sworn declaration to the Court Registrar or with a will.
The mother or the child can ask for recognition at the court. The process is called judicial recognition.
Under Article 21, judicial recognition is possible even after the man has died. The application is filed against the man’s heirs in such a case.
When there is recognition, the child gets all the legal rights belonging to a child from the date of birth. The rule is the same whether recognition was voluntary or through the court.
The Cyprus Succession rules will apply to any immovable property a British ex-pat owns in Cyprus. The rule applies even if they are UK-domiciled (but see the EU Regulation below). If the British ex-pat is domiciled in Cyprus, the Cyprus succession law will apply to all their property.
The answer is no, with one exception. The exception covers those who returned to the UK on or after April 6, 2017, becoming UK residents again.
The answer is no. There is no inheritance tax for an estate below 325,000 pounds sterling in value (basic inheritance tax threshold or nil rate band). The amount will remain so until April 2026.
Moreover, the residence nil rate band (RNRB) is an additional tax-free amount, currently 175,000 pounds sterling. The property must be left to direct descendants such as children and grandchildren. Property left to nieces and nephews does not qualify for the RNRB.
Under EU law, a will or declaration is valid if it covers the requirements of:
The courts that can rule on the succession are the courts of the Member State (MS) where the deceased had their “habitual residence”, i.e., in the MS in which they were living (Article 4).
A person has a limited right to choice of law. They can declare that the law which will apply to their succession is the law of their nationality, even if they are living in a different MS. The law of nationality can be the law of a third country; it does not have to be the law of an EU country. The choice of law is limited to prevent a person from purposefully “choosing” the legal system that will enable them to avoid the laws of their own country (A22 choice of law; A20 universal application; Recital 38).
The choice of law must be made expressly in a declaration or disposition (Recital 39). According to Your Europe (europa.eu), “you should express your choice of law explicitly and clearly, in a will or separate declaration.”
People with multiple nationalities can choose any of them (Article 22(1)).
The European Certificate of Succession is issued by the authorities of the MS who will do the succession and is recognised across the EU (Cyprus is a member of the EU). It enables the heirs to receive property in another MS without going through the court system again (Articles 65-70).
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