Could this be true?

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TweetTweet
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Could this be true?

Postby TweetTweet » Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:53 pm

(British) Person A dies (about 6years ago) and (so far) no heirs have come forward to take possession of the house. (I understand there was a British Will).

Person A’s elderly immediate Greek neighbour dies and a Nephew inherits his Uncle’s house, does some work on it and sells it to Belgians.

Nephew likes the return on the small amount of work done and has now set his sight on Person A’s empty property. Nephew believes that if he pays Person A’s Property Taxes for the next 3 years (presumably including 6 years of arrears), then Nephew can become the legal owner of Person A’s property.

There are two rather strong families in the Village where this is happening – the Nephew's and one other. The other strong family is up in arms about what Nephew is trying to do (so trouble brewing). However there are other locals in the Village who knew and liked Person A and are equally appalled at what Nephew is trying to do, plus the possibility of some strong fisticuffs.

Nephew has gone to his accountant and obtained the paperwork to pay the property taxes for the next 3 years.

My question is simple really – could it be possible to pay 3 years work of property taxes (on any empty and possibly abandoned property) and then be able to get legal title?

The idea sounds completely ridiculous to me but some Greek friends asked if I could find out the veracity of Nephew's claim.

Μόνο στην Κρήτη! :)

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Wed Aug 31, 2016 1:33 pm

It's a legal question. Ask a lawyer, preferably one specialising in property law or possibly a Notary, since they draw up the contracts transferring ownership so ought to know what the law is.

If there is a British will it should specify who inherits and who is to act as executor. The executor should first process the will through the Probate Court in the UK and get a grant of probate with an official copy of the British will attached. He should then employ a lawyer in Crete to process the those documents through the Greek court system. A British will is valid here as long as it is a valid will in the UK so the court here would typically want the grant of probate with an official copy of the will to be sure it is a valid will in the UK.

Warwick

Istronian
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Istronian » Thu Sep 01, 2016 3:37 pm

Kilkis wrote: The executor should first process the will through the Probate Court in the UK and get a grant of probate with an official copy of the British will attached. He should then employ a lawyer in Crete to process the those documents through the Greek court system. A British will is valid here as long as it is a valid will in the UK so the court here would typically want the grant of probate with an official copy of the will to be sure it is a valid will in the UK.

Warwick


Just to clarify:

A “British Will” is perfectly valid in Greece. As a British citizen living in Greece you have the option, under EU regulations, to have your Will executed either under British or Greek inheritance rules.

If you live in Greece and have a UK made Will but have no assets in the UK it is impossible to obtain probate in the UK. A decent Greek lawyer can do everything required to ensure the deceased wishes are carried out as required in either a Greek or UK made Will.

Ian

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Thu Sep 01, 2016 4:34 pm

Ian is correct. I was describing what happens where the deceased has assets in both countries and has only made a UK will, i.e. the original must then go to the UK probate court and an official copy, i.e. one issued by the UK probate court, be submitted to the Greek court. If there are only Greek assets then the original UK will should be submitted to the Greek court. As Ian says a Greek will is not necessary despite what many people are told by Greek lawyers, although having one might make the process easier. It isn't difficult to make one. Just hand write it, with no mistakes, and date and sign it. No lawyer or notary necessary.

Yet another situation is where the person has assets in both countries and has made both a UK will and a Greek will. In that situation the executor should only submit the Greek will to the Greek court, through a lawyer, but the UK probate court requires both the original UK will and an official copy of the Greek will, i.e a copy issued by the Greek court. I got away with a photocopy validated by a notary because the Greek court system was not functioning at the time.

The Greek court only considers assets in Greece while the UK probate court considers world wide assets, although how it is taxed depends on your domiciliary status. People are also sometimes told that they must obey Greek rules on how the estate is distributed, e.g. 25 % to the spouse, 75 % divided between children. This is also not true. A foreign national can distribute the estate however he/she wishes provided it is in accordance with the law of their country of nationality.

Warwick

chrissyg
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby chrissyg » Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:20 pm

An old post, Warwick but you seem to be the expert and i wondered if the dreaded Brexit will make any difference. I and my partner own a villa here and a house in UK. I have not made a greek wiil, our lawyer said the uk one will do. When one of us dies, the other will inherit the properties. When we both die our children should inherit. Re tax and anything else, would the kids have to sell the property to pay inhetance tax or could they continue to own it without having to pay loads of money to do so?

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:14 pm

As far as I can tell inheritance taxes have to be paid within a certain timescale both in the UK and in Greece. I don't know exactly what that timescale is in Greece. In the UK it is by the end of the 6 month after the person died. In both countries interest is charged if it is not paid on time. In the UK, in the case of a house that the person inheriting intends to live in, they can pay it in 10 annual instalments. No interest is charged on the first instalment, provided it is paid on time, but subsequent ones do incur interest and currently the rate is 3.25 % but it does vary from year to year. I think now in Greece you can also pay over 120 monthly instalments but I am not sure of the interest rate. I know it is a monthly charge and it is compound so although the rate is small it can mount up.

Brexit should not make a difference. Property ownership is dealt with under international law not EU law. Inheritance tax is dealt with under national law so it can change but Brexit shouldn't be an issue.

It is true that a UK Will can be processed through the Greek courts but most Greek lawyers advise making a Greek will because it is easier. It can be in English but following a Greek format. It is is simple to do, you simply write it yourself in your own handwriting, without mistakes, and sign and date it. It does not need to be witnessed. You don't not need to involve a lawyer or a Notary. You do need to be more specific than a UK will. For example father's name and mother's name after anybody named in the will. Village, Dimos and Nomos to specify any addresses. Name and address of the Notary that drew up the contract for the property and the contract number and date. Similarly for money in Bank accounts.

Under UK law the rules depend where you are domiciled. That is not necessarily the same thing as where you are resident. Don't ask me to define it, I am not sure anybody really knows. Pick what you think is reasonable, write a justification and see if they challenge it. When my late wife died I claimed we were both permanently resident in Greece but both domiciled in the UK and wrote a single page justification for that claim. It was not challenged. For example there is no inheritance tax limit for property passed between spouses if you are domiciled in the UK, even if you are resident in Greece. Also any unused inheritance tax allowance from when property is passed between spouses can be used subsequently when the property passes from the surviving spouse to children. On the other hand the UK considers the whole estate wherever it is in the world if you are domiciled in the UK but only property in the UK if you are domiciled outside the UK. In the UK inheritance tax is a charge against the whole estate and any tax free limit applies to the whole estate.

Under Greek law only property in Greece is considered for inheritance tax, unless things have changed recently. Also the inheritance tax is a charge against the people who inherit and the tax free allowance of each person depends on how close the relationship is. It is highest for spouses and children but I am not sure of the exact amount. Above the tax free threshold the rate does not rise as quickly as in the UK.

I hope that helps.

Warwick

PS As an afterthought I notice you use the word partner. If you are not married the surviving partner may have very limited legal rights and also a very limited tax exemption. I have a friend who was a Registrar in the UK for many years and was called out to perform lots of death bed marriages because unwed partners suddenly realised the legal implications of not being married. She said that it is very disturbing and urged all partners to get married sooner rather than later whatever they thought about the institution of marriage. I would certainly talk to both a UK and a Greek lawyer to find out what the consequences are for inheritance if you are not married.

chrissyg
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby chrissyg » Sat Sep 14, 2019 8:41 am

Thanks, it does help and we may just talk to our lawyer. I just remember him saying we didnt have to do amything if we already had a uk will.Yes, we are not married but intend to get a civil partnership as soon as it is going in the uk ( supposedly this year)for these financial benefits. I just want it to be easier for our kids to inherit without having to try and sell or keep without financial problems.

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:38 am

There is nothing to stop you submitting a UK Will to the Greek probate court but it is not what they are used to seeing so processing it may take longer and it might raise questions. For example one section of my UK Will contained the following wording, where the red bits contained actual names:

    I GIVE DEVISE AND BEQUEATH the whole of my estate both real and personal whatsoever and wheresoever to my wife Full Name of Village Nomos Crete Greece absolutely PROVIDED THAT she survives me by 28 days and I APPOINT her to be sole Executor of this my Will.

I am not sure the 28 day bit is needed now. The equivalent section of my Greek Will contained the following wording:

    After my death I hereby give, devise and bequeath all of my property, real, personal and mixed which is situated in Greece in Crete in the village of Village in the municipality of Municipality of the prefecture of Nomos, specifically my portion of a plot which measures X sqm with a single floor house which measures about Y sqm to my wife full wife's name of father full father's name and mother full mother's name.
    The above property had been obtained by me according to the deed deed contract number written by Notary's full name an address (public Notary).
    I also give to my wife full wife's name of father full father's name and mother full mother's name all of my money which has been deposited in Greek Bank accounts, my car with registration car's reg number and my motorbike with registration bike's reg number

Clearly they achieve the same end but the second version is in line with what the Greek court expects to see so doesn't cause any doubt or confusion whereas the first is not what they expect to see. Similar principles apply to the rest of the will, i.e. UK version very short and simple - Greek version much more detailed and specific. Not necessary but possibly helpful.

Warwick

Clio
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Clio » Sat Sep 14, 2019 10:23 am

If you are married, jointly own a property, have not made a will and one of you dies, the Greek law says that the survivor inherits half of the property. The other half is divided between any children of the marriage.

Those children must then take a Greek tax number and have to submit Greek tax returns – which is obviously an unnecessarily complicated business.

To prepare for this and prevent it, you should each make a will bequeathing your entire property to your partner only. That surviving partner can then make a new will stipulating how the estate should be divided – equally among three children, for example.

With the advance agreement of the children you might want a private understanding that they will share what there is, but only one will inherit on paper – so only that one has the hassle of dealing with the inherited estate when you die.

Tim
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Tim » Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:00 am

TweetTweet wrote:
My question is simple really – could it be possible to pay 3 years work of property taxes (on any empty and possibly abandoned property) and then be able to get legal title?

Μόνο στην Κρήτη! :)


I have heard of this from several different sources but have never been able to find out if it's true or merely a piece of urban mythology. Anybody any idea? I'd be fascinated to discover how the scenario in the original post played out.

Tim

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Sat Sep 14, 2019 1:32 pm

Clio wrote:If you are married, jointly own a property, have not made a will and one of you dies, the Greek law says that the survivor inherits half of the property. The other half is divided between any children of the marriage...


According to Europa.eu it is a bit more complicated than that. This site gives an overview while this site gives details for Greece. Click on any line in the Contents list to jump to that topic. This is an extract from the first link, my emphasis in red:

    Your inheritance also know legally as succession will usually be handled by an authority - often a court or a notary – in the EU country where you last lived. This authority will in most cases apply its own national law to your inheritance.

    EU rules however allow you to choose that the law of your country of nationality should apply to your inheritance – whether this is an EU country or not.

I know of one English couple where the husband died intestate in Greece and his estate was dealt with in accordance with English law with the wife inheriting the husband's share of the property in its entirety. I would still strongly recommend making a Will

This article gives the basic rules on inheritance tax but treat with caution. Tax laws change all the time.

Warwick

Clio
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Clio » Sat Sep 14, 2019 3:39 pm

I was writing from personal experience, Warwick. Textbooks are useful but they don’t always tell you about what happens on the ground.

When my husband died the notary complained about all the work that would have to be done because he hadn’t left a Greek will. Our three sons would have to read, sign and have officially witnessed a document relating to their one sixth share. This would of course be in Greek so they would have to have it officially translated. The one in Australia would have to find a Greek-speaking lawyer to take him through it…and so forth. It was going to be complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

When I mentioned this to an accountant friend he said what a pity it was that Vassili hadn’t left a will, and was I sure he hadn’t? If I were to look very hard, mightn’t I find such a will? Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Oh yes, said a Greek widow of my acquaintance, unsurprised. “That’s what we had to do to save all the hassle. We “found” a will leaving it all to me”. Further conversations revealed that wills are quite regularly “found”.

I was tempted, but to a respectable law-abiding Brit it seemed such a scarily big step on the wrong side of the law. I put the idea on hold, and distracted myself with a long-overdue sorting-out of stuff at home, including the overflowing filing system. At the bottom of a box of yellowing papers I found a print-out of a post from the old Interkriti forum, sharing information on how to write a Greek will bequeathing everything to a partner and explaining the reason for this.

Filed with that paper were two wills, hand-written by himself and me the same day as the post and witnessed by a friend long returned to the UK, which followed the suggested wording.

I have absolutely no memory of this happening, but it clearly did. The notary seemed unsurprised when I handed over the real, genuine will, but elsewhere my insistence that I really truly had found it was greeted by a great deal of conspiratorial laughter.

Kilkis
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kilkis » Sat Sep 14, 2019 5:01 pm

I am aware that what happens, Clio, isn't always in accordance with what the rules say. I know of another case where the deceased had "apparently" only written an English Will and the lawyer acting for the surviving spouse asked if she was absolutely sure that he had not also written a Greek Will. He suggested that she go back home and look again "very carefully" and surprisingly enough she did "find" one after a "thorough search". I don't see any particular harm. The one she "found" made exactly the same provisions as the English one, although expressed in a different way as I outlined above. If it achieves the intended end but with fewer problems then it makes sense. Obviously it would be totally wrong if it altered the deceased intentions.

My comment was really addressed at the fact that the division rules are more complicated than your post suggested. I am not saying that what you posted is wrong but there are other possibilities.

Warwick

Kriticat
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Kriticat » Sat Sep 28, 2019 6:51 pm

Thanks for the information
When you say a Greek will, is that written in Greek, or is English OK?

Mixos
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Re: Could this be true?

Postby Mixos » Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:51 am

Our Greek wills, which we did 15 years ago when we bought property here, were in English, but they had to be hand-written and free of any crossing out, amendments or other errors. They were witnessed by a notary and lodged in her files. They are simple mirror wills, leaving all our assets in Greece to the other partner if one dies, and if we both die together everything is then split equally between our two children. I have no idea if that is how it is still done in Greece, but I was assured at the time that our UK wills would have no bearing on what happened to our Greek assets, which would be disposed of according to the local one.


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