Cyprus: Cyprus Succession Law And Planning

This article appeared in the September 2007 issue of "Offshore Investment" and is reproduced by kind permission of the publisher.

Cyprus’s succession law reflects the cosmopolitan nature of the island itself. While the wording of the law and many of its provisions are unmistakably English, Cyprus succession law also enshrines the concept of forced heirship, usually associated with civil law and Islamic countries, and recognises the rights of widows of polygamous marriages. This article provides an outline of the law and the forced heirship provisions and suggests planning techniques that can be used to avoid any restriction on testamentary freedom.

The Key Legislation

Cyprus succession law is incorporated in a number of enactments, the most significant of which are the Wills and Succession Law (Cap 195), and the Administration of Estates Law (Cap 189). Both laws date back to the first half of the 20th century, when Cyprus was a British colony, which explains some of the rather old-fashioned language they contain.

These laws apply to anyone who dies domiciled in Cyprus. Domicile is a general legal concept, distinct from nationality or residence. Broadly speaking, a person’s domicile is the place he or she thinks of as their permanent home.

The Wills and Succession Law deals with both Wills and Intestacy. The part of the law dealing with Wills is based on the English Wills Act of 1837, whereas the part dealing with intestacy is based on the Italian Civil Code and reflects continental law.

The Concept Of Forced Heirship

In contrast to its English counterpart, the Wills and Succession Law does not allow testators to dispose freely of their property by will. A substantial part of the deceased person’s net estate (that is, the value after allowing for payment of debts and funeral expenses) must be reserved for close relatives (the deceased person’s spouse, children and descendants of children of the deceased who died in his or her lifetime) who are alive at the time of his or her death. This reserved amount is called the "statutory portion" and is distributed according to the rules set out in the Wills and Succession Law. The remaining amount of the net estate (the "disposable portion") may be disposed of by Will.

A Will that purports to dispose of more than the disposable portion of the testator’s estate is not invalid but the disposition in the Will will be reduced and abated proportionally so as to be limited to the disposable portion. No abatement will take place if the testator leaves a surviving spouse but no children or descendants of children, and leaves more than the disposable portion, up to the value of his estate, to the surviving spouse.

Section 42 of the Wills and Succession Law provides that there is no statutory portion for anyone who was born, or whose father was born, in the United Kingdom or most Commonwealth countries. Such individuals are entitled to dispose of all their property by Will.

Other non-Cypriots are free to dispose only of moveable property without any statutory portion. Accordingly, these "forced heirship" provisions require careful consideration and appropriate action ahead of death to avoid any undesired results.

How Forced Heirship Works

Calculation Of The Statutory Portion

The actual proportion of the net estate taken up by the statutory portion varies according to which relatives survive the deceased person.

  • For example, if an individual dies leaving a living child or a descendant of a child, the statutory portion amounts to three quarters of the net value of the estate.
  • If the individual is survived by a spouse or a parent, but not by any children or their descendants, the statutory portion is half the value of the net estate.
  • If the individual leaves no surviving spouse, parent, child or descendant of a child, the statutory portion is reduced to nil and all the estate may be disposed of by will.

The statutory portion is divided according to the rules set out in the Wills and Succession Law, which also apply in the absence of a valid will or to any part of the estate not otherwise disposed of.

Categories Of Relatives Entitled To The Statutory Portion

These are divided into four classes, as follows:

  1. The first class comprises the children of the deceased who are living at the date of his or her death, together with the surviving descendants of any of the deceased’s children who died in his or her lifetime;
  2. The second class comprises the parents of the deceased (or if the parents are dead, the nearest living ancestor) and the brothers and sisters (including half-brothers and half-sisters) of the deceased, together with the surviving descendants of brothers or sisters (including half-brothers and halfsisters) who died in the deceased’s lifetime;
  3. The third class comprises the nearest ancestors of the deceased living at the time of his or her death; and
  4. The fourth class comprises the nearest other relatives of the deceased living at the time of his or her death, up to the sixth degree of kindred (more remote relatives are excluded).

The persons of one class exclude persons of a subsequent class. Accordingly, if the deceased person is survived by a child and a brother, the statutory portion of the estate goes exclusively to the child.

Distribution Of The Statutory Portion

Within each class there are specific rules for the share taken by an individual class member:

  • Living children of the deceased are all entitled to an equal share and descendants of a deceased child are entitled to that child’s share per stirpes.
  • Surviving parents, brothers and sisters (including half-brothers or half-sisters) of the deceased are all entitled to an equal share. Descendants of brothers and sisters who died in the lifetime of the deceased are entitled to the share of the brother or sister concerned, per stirpes.

  • If there are ancestors of equal degree of kindred on both the mother’s and the father’s side of the family, the statutory portion and undisposed portion is divided into two. Each side of the family is entitled to its half share, and each individual takes an equal percentage of his or her side’s share.
  • If there are two or more members of the fourth class, each receives an equal share.
  • If the deceased person has no surviving spouse and no living relative within the sixth degree of kindred, the statutory portion and undisposed portion become the property of the government.

The Surviving Spouse

Where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse, a prior share must be set aside for him or her in arriving at the statutory portion. This share varies according to the number and closeness of relations entitled to the statutory portion.

  • If the deceased leaves children (or descendants of children of the deceased who died in his or her lifetime), the statutory portion and undisposed portion is divided equally among the surviving spouse, the living children and the descendants of children who died in the lifetime of the deceased, per stirpes.
  • If the deceased leaves no child (or descendant of a child), but at least one relative of the third degree of kindred (great grandparent, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece) or closer, the surviving spouse is entitled to half the statutory portion and undisposed portion.
  • If the deceased leaves only relatives of the fourth degree of kindred (great great grandparent, great aunt, great uncle, first cousin, grand nephew or grand niece), the surviving spouse is entitled to three quarters of the statutory portion and undisposed portion.
  • If the deceased leaves no relative within the fourth degree of kindred, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire statutory portion and undisposed portion.

If the deceased left more than one lawful wife, the surviving spouse’s share is divided equally among them.

Retaining Testamentary Freedom

As noted earlier, the forced heirship provisions do not affect the estate of anyone who was born, or whose father was born, in the United Kingdom or most Commonwealth countries.

For others, any undesired effects of the "forced heirship" provisions can be relatively easily circumvented. In the case of individuals coming to take up permanent residence in Cyprus (and ultimately acquiring a Cyprus domicile of choice), the simplest and most effective option is to establish a Cyprus International Trust under the International Trusts Law of 1992 prior to becoming resident in Cyprus. The International Trusts Law specifically provides that any transfer or disposition made to a Cyprus International Trust will not be affected in any way by the inheritance law of the Republic of Cyprus or of any other country, and that the validity of such transfer shall not be challenged. This is reinforced by Section 1 of the 1976 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgements in Civil and Commercial Matters, which has been ratified by Cyprus, and which provides that the Convention does not apply to decisions relating to the capacity of persons or questions of family law, including personal or financial rights and obligations between parents and children or between spouses and questions of succession.

The Cyprus International Trust also has powerful tax planning and asset protection benefits. It is exempt from taxation and transfers of assets into the trust cannot be set aside unless it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the transfer was made with intent to defraud persons who were creditors of the settlor at the time the transfer was made. The burden of proof lies with the creditor and no action may be commenced after two years from the date of the transfer.

Costs of establishing and maintaining a Cyprus International Trust are modest and the formalities involved in setting up a trust are not onerous. International Trusts have other benefits – for example, the International Trusts Law provides that the income and gains of an international trust derived from sources outside Cyprus are exempt from all kinds of tax in Cyprus.

If a Cyprus International Trust is not an option (for example because the settlor is a permanent resident of Cyprus), a local trust should provide a way around the forced heirship provisions, though without the tax benefits of a Cyprus International Trust. Specialist legal advice, taking into account the individual’s entire circumstances, is essential to determine the best way forward.

In Conclusion

Cyprus offers an excellent quality of life to incoming residents and the island is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan. While Britain continues to be the single largest source of new residents, the Russian-speaking population is substantial and the island is truly cosmopolitan. In addition to its general low-tax regime, Cyprus has further attractions in the form of low taxation of pensions and absence of succession taxes in any form. While the forced heirship provisions of the succession law may be a trap for the unwary, proper planning can avert any undesired consequences. What is more, the succession planning structure of choice, the Cyprus international trust, brings with it significant side-benefits in terms of asset protection and tax planning opportunities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.