A person's Will is a written declaration of his/her intention regarding the way he/she wishes to dispose of his/her movable and immovable property after his/her death. It should be stressed that a person's right to dispose of his/her property through a Will under Cypriot succession law is not absolute and is subject to restrictions.
If the Testator has a spouse and children or a spouse with the custody of children, then the disposable portion in the Will must not exceed 1/4 of the net value of the estate. If the Testator has a spouse or parents but does not have children, then the disposable portion in the Will must not exceed 1/2 of the net value of the estate. The net value of the Testator's estate shall be calculated on the day of the Testator's death and not on the day the Will is drawn up. If the Testator has neither a spouse, children, the custody of children or living parents, then he/she is entitled to dispose of all his/her estate as she/he wishes.
The law governing this issue is the Wills and Succession Act (CAP.195). Any person who has reached the age of 18 and is of sound mind may draw up a Will. A valid Will must be drawn up in accordance with the conditions laid down in the above law and as indicated below.
- It must be a written Will.
- It must be signed at the foot or at the end by the Testator.
- If the Will exceeds one page then each page must be signed at the foot or the end by both the Testator and the two Witnesses confirming the signature of the Testator.
- The Testator must sign in the presence of two Witnesses who are present at the same time and shall endorse the Will in the presence of the Testator.
A Witness in a Will can be any person who has reached the age of 18, is of sound mind and has no benefit in the estate available in the Will. It is wise to complete all the Witness's details, e.g. identification number and address, so that when the Will is to be executed, it is easy to identify the Witnesses who will confirm the signature of the Testator. At this point it should be clarified that the Witnesses confirm the signature of the Testator and not the contents of the Will of which they may be unaware.
The Will in order to be valid must, in addition to the above, include the relevant stamp duty, be dated and lodged with the Court. The drafting of the Will should be clear and specific so that it does not leave any doubts as to its execution.
The Will must also indicate its Executor or Executors, to whom the last Will of the deceased person has been entrusted, by appointment by the Testator. It is emphasized here that the Executor or Executors of the Will must be permanent residents of Cyprus, regardless of nationality.
If the deceased has left a valid Will, then the Executor(s) appointed has/have a responsibility to fulfill the wishes of the deceased, in accordance with the provisions of the Will and the Law.
In the absence of a Will, the family and heirs of the deceased must appoint an Administrator to the Estate. Lawyers and consultants of our office often undertake the administration process, either by preparing all relevant legal and judicial documents necessary for the commencement of administration, or by appointing us as the Administrators of the Estate, to assume the duties of Administrator in order to ensure that the administration process is fair, correct and swift. This includes paying any legal, tax or other obligations of the deceased, and ensuring that the property is distributed to the rightful heirs. The Administrator or Executor of an Estate is personally responsible and bears personal responsibility both to the heirs and to the Republic.
New European Regulation. How it affects UK nationals residing permanently in Cyprus
Anyone who lives in Cyprus and wishes to dispose of his inheritance in accordance with English Law should check his Will. The new European Succession Law may nullify his/her existing Will. Also, anyone who has not drawn up a Will, who lives in Cyprus and wishes the English law to be applied to matters of his or her inheritance, should take this into consideration. Alternatively, the law of the Testator's last permanent residence (e.g. Cyprus) will apply and not the law of his/her nationality.
An English Manager of a large English food chain moves with his family for 5 years to Paphos in order to set up and run a branch.
A retired English couple buy a house to reside in Peyia.
Which law applies each time?
Whether they are qualified staff, pensioners living abroad or employees who are moving to a job – anyone living abroad and wishing his inheritance to fall under the law of his nationality, should take into consideration that the new European Regulation on Succession Law has brought about fundamental changes.
For the above examples this means:
With regard to the English Manager with permanent residence in Paphos or the retired English couple who live in Peyia, if they wish that the Cyprus law should not apply to their heirs, they should clearly indicate their choice of English law.
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.