Estate means the movable and immovable property and generally, all the assets someone has in possession during a lifetime. As a result, estate administration is related to the procedures of gathering and distributing assets of the deceased to legal heirs in Cyprus. A relevant consideration which affects the way the estate assets will be distributed is the Will and if such exists or not.
In Cyprus, a will is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses their wishes as to how their estate and assets will be distributed at death, and names one or more persons as legal heirs, and the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution.
The will’s main purpose is the disposing of the estate/assets of the deceased or at least such part of it as is free to dispose of and may also include other important provisions such as funeral arrangements.
A will must be in writing and be executed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses present at the same time.
The will in Cyprus can be registered at the District Court of the city in which the testator lives, however even if not registered its validity is not affected.
The will gives the opportunity to decide on certain matters, which are mentioned below.
It gives the power to appoint the executor who will be responsible to file the estate administration at the relevant District Court and request a grant of probate (a court order) which will allow him to act in the name of the estate and distribute the assets according to the directions as mentioned in the will.
The executor can be any person, occasionally a trusted family member or your lawyer who has the legal knowledge and experience to administer the estate and divide the assets in a professional manner.
However, if there is no will the power to appoint an executor will be left to the legal heirs who will need to consent to the appointment of suitable estate administrator who will, like the executor, apply to the District Court, for a grant of probate.
In the absence of a will, the estate will be distributed following the provisions of the Wills and Succession Law which provides 7 classes of legal heirs in a hierarchical order of priority based on the degree of relation to the deceased. The first class of legal heirs is the Spouse (Husband or Wife) and the children who usually will each inherit an equal share of the estate.
If there is a will it can specify the distribution of the assets, and to who they will be passed or even it can distribute assets to additional heirs, other than relatives, if this is the wish of the testator subject to the Disposable Portion.
The Cyprus Wills and succession law restricts the freedom of the testator to dispose of his estate and assets so that those, will pass mainly, to family members.
The disposable portion of the estate refers to that part of the moveable and immovable property of a person which he can dispose of freely by his will. The law expressly provides that where a person dies leaving a spouse and a child or a spouse and a descendant of a child, or no spouse but a child or a descendant of a child, the disposable portion of the estate shall not exceed ¼ (one quarter) of the net value of the estate.
Where the deceased leaves a spouse or a father or a mother, but no child or descendant of a child, the disposable portion extends to ½ (one half) of the net value of his estate.
Where the deceased leaves neither spouse, nor child nor descendant of a child, nor a father nor a mother, the disposable portion shall be the whole of the estate.
A will might be revoked by a subsequent will which expressly revokes the previous one. Also, a will might be revoked by tearing or by any other means of destruction by the testator.
General Matters dealing with the administration of estates in Cyprus are dealt with under the Administration of Estates Law, Cap. 189, the Probates (Re-Sealing) Law, Cap.192 and the Rules made under these Laws, in conjunction with the Cyprus Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195.
A grant of probate gives the power and legal authority to the estate administrator to manage and distribute the assets of the deceased. It includes the power to transfer property and access bank accounts in order to distribute the assets to the legal heirs under court supervision and following the provisions of the law of inheritance.
The necessary documents to initiate the grant of probate procedure are the following:
Prior to being able to deal with the deceased person's assets this legal authority is required according to the Wills law. A grant of probate is not required in cases where the only asset is a bank deposit not exceeding €15.000.
The law provides that the Chief Registrar is the principal probate registrar and that the Supreme Court Registry is the principal probate registry.
The probate registrars’ main duties include receipt of wills for safe custody, receipt of applications for grant of probate or administration as well as dispatch to the principal probate registry of notices in the prescribed form of every application made to the registry for a grant.
The Estate Administration procedure in Cyprus will be initiated by the executor if there is a will or by all the legal heirs or any of them if there is no will. The lawyer will file the administration, probate application and request the court to grant to the proposed executor the probate order which will enable him to administer the assets of the deceased.
The application for the issue of the probate order will include information regarding the heirs and the beneficiaries, the estimate of the value estate, movable, immovable property, debts and a written declaration by the heirs or beneficiaries accepting his appointment. If there is no consent from any of the beneficiaries, the application must be served to them and they have the right to object to the appointment of the proposed administrator.
The time required for the issuance of a Probate order shall not exceed 1-2 months provided no objection by any of the beneficiaries is raised.
Having obtained the probate order, an administrator is obliged to file in court an inventory of the estate accompanied by an affidavit and he shall, in administering the estate, obtain the tax release certificate and pay any tax if payable.
His main duty is to manage the estate under the supervision of the court to collect and get the estate which includes the power to issue legal proceedings on behalf of the deceased, pay the funeral and testamentary expenses, pay all the debts of the deceased.
After payment of the funeral and other incidental expenses, including the administrator’s reasonable expenses, the debts of the deceased, the administrator will distribute the remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries. For the administration of the estate usually, a special bank account is opened which is used to make all the payments and to receive any money to be collected.
For an administration to be considered as finalised, the administrator must file to the probate registrar the final accounts with the necessary documents, details, receipts and declaration signed by the heirs and the beneficiaries stating that they have received their inheritance part. The probate registrar examines the final accounts and provided the administration has been properly executed, he releases the administrator from his duties.
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