In mid-2015, the Wills and Succession Law, Cap. 195, was amended in Cyprus, with the amendments having a particular impact mainly on British persons and other Commonwealth-country individuals who have immovable property in the Republic of Cyprus as the “forced heirship” rule exemption is now abolished.
- What is the Force Heirship Rule
Like numerous countries in the world Cyprus has a “forced heirship” regime. This is specified in Section 41 of the Wills and Succession Law, Cap 195 (the “Law”), which sets aside a specified proportion, known as the “statutory portion”, of a deceased person’s estate for close relatives (as such relatives are defined in the said Law). The statutory portion must be passed to the relatives concerned and cannot be disposed of by the individual’s will. By way of example, if an individual passed away, leaving a spouse and a child to succeed them, three-quarters (75%) of the value of the estate is reserved for them and is to be divided equally between them. Only the remaining quarter of the estate can be disposed of by the individual’s will.
- Amendment and Impact
Prior to July 2015 British citizens and citizens of most former British colonies (excluding Cyprus) were exempt from the forced heirship provisions. However, Law 96(I) of 2015 withdrew this exemption and the forced heirship provisions now apply to anyone who dies while being domiciled in Cyprus and to the succession to any immovable property located in Cyprus, regardless of the domicile of the deceased person.
This amendment, which also affect shares in Cyprus companies, can give rise to unforeseen and undesired consequences, particularly if relations between the surviving individuals are not harmonious.
There are a number of ways in which the status quo ante may be restored and freedom to dispose of one’s property as one wishes can be regained, depending on individual circumstances, and in this respect it is advisable to seek legal advice if you are affected.