Last Wills and Testaments in Cyprus
Сyprus laws are unique in many parts including such provisions for succession and inheritance. Making a Last Will and Testament for your assets should be one of your considerations when you plan to migrate to Cyprus, most especially when you start acquiring properties there.
It is true that people have different views about creating and having a will. One common notion is that only people of means need to bother putting one in place. And for those who don't own much, there's not much use for drafting a last will.
A large percentage of people worldwide likely belong to the latter category (nearly half of the world, according to a report by the World Bank). With Cyprus included in those statistics, we can presume that more people die We can presume that more people die intestate (without leaving a will) than with a valid will in place. Consequently, those people who don’t have a will at the time of their death leave the distribution of their respective estates (or everything they own) to the designated laws of the land and the discretion of a judge.
While this scenario may not be altogether unacceptable, wouldn’t it be best if the one who passed away had a say in how his or her estate is to be passed on to the heirs?
This article will give you a better understanding of wills and why having a valid will or testament is so important. You will also explore what to consider when formulating a will that will suit your individual needs the most.
Understanding Why It’s Necessary
What Is a Last Will?
A last will or testament is a legal document that bears an individual’s specific instructions on how his or her estate is to be distributed among the heirs after his or her passing. Some refer to it as an estate-planning document because it practically lays out the future of one’s estate after one's passing.
Why Is It Important to Have a Last Will?
Having a last will is important because it is designed to deal with specific concerns in regard to each heir. It allows the testator (one who died and left a will) to freely allocate portions of the estate between the members of his family and other beneficiaries. It is also a medium through which a person can transmit specific, legally binding instructions and wishes to be carried out after their death.
While Cypriot inheritance and succession laws protect the rights of all heirs, they don’t always cover certain circumstances that some families may have. The law of forced heirship is probably the best example here. According to this law, each member of the immediate family of the deceased (that is, their spouse or children) has a right to an equal share of the estate. Fair though it may seem, however, this law is too general to effectively address more complicated inheritance issues.
For example, a person may feel that one of his or her heirs deserves a larger portion of the estate than the others. That particular heir may have contributed the most to the growth of the estate. Or they may need more help than other heirs for reasons like physical sickness or disability. The law does not take considerations like these into account. And the court-appointed administrators of estates are not at fault here either because they are simply acting on behalf of the law. Additionally, they are rarely aware of the specific situations of the family members of the deceased.
Some families may simply need solutions better-tailored to their specific circumstances and a will is a perfect medium to address such concerns.
What Are the Advantages of Creating a Will?
Having a carefully composed Last Will gives you certain advantages when it comes to the distribution of your assets and estate:
- You get to choose what exactly will happen with your estate. The matter is not left to the court.
- You get to designate an executor of your choice who will carry out the instructions you left in your will.
- You get to secure your family’s future after you’re gone.
- You don’t have to frantically worry about the future of your family if your health suddenly changes and you’re unsure of the medical outcomes.
- You can reward someone (a family member, a friend or even an employee) with a portion of your estate for their service, loyalty or for whatever reason you see fit.
- You can leave instructions on how a portion of your estate will be used to care for someone (a family member, a friend or someone else you care about).
- You can allocate a portion of your estate to a charity, a cause, a church or an organization of your choosing.
- You can appoint a guardian if your children are still minors.
Conversely, if a person dies intestate, the court steps in and appoints an administrator to apply the inheritance and succession laws. None of what you may wish with regard to the issues mentioned above will be taken into account without a valid last will.
Taking The Necessary Steps
How to Go About Creating a Will
You can draft a will yourself. There is no law prohibiting you from making your own will. The internet has a wealth of information and available templates you can use to draft one yourself. The downside to this, though, is that it’s going to be tedious and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it right. You will have to spend hours and hours doing research to ensure that your will complies with Cyprus Inheritance and Succession Laws. If you do this on your own, it may turn out that you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time only to learn that your will is invalid due to conflicting or unlawful provisions.
Although writing your own last will is not advisable, the information you can find on the Internet can prove useful. Use this information to create a draft of a will that you can later take to a lawyer for review. Look for a law firm that is well-versed in family inheritance and succession laws and seek professional legal advice on all provisions you would like to include in your will.
What Should You Consider Before Writing Your Last Will?
Avoid making mistakes or incorporating (intentionally or not) provisions restricted by the law that may eventually invalidate your will or portions of it. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you prepare to have your last will written:
- Make sure that no one from your immediate family (spouse or children) is left out of your will. The law of forced heirship restricts a testator from excluding the spouse or any of the children from the left estate.
- Your freedom to distribute portions of your estate is subject to the provisions on ‘statutory’ and ‘disposable’ portions. The ‘statutory’ portion is 75% of the net value of your entire estate and is reserved for equal distribution to your spouse and children.
- Your ‘disposable’ portion is the remaining 25% of your estate, which you are free to allocate as you wish to anyone. It can be an additional inheritance to a member of your immediate family, a gift or reward to a relative or a friend, or a donation to a charity, a cause, a church or an organization of your choosing.
- If you have a will that was drafted in another country because you also have properties there, make sure you have a separate will for the properties you bought in Cyprus. Otherwise, these assets will be regarded as intestate in the event of your passing. However, if you’re not a Cypriot citizen but you are a citizen of the EU, you may choose to have the laws of your native country applied to your case. Otherwise, all your properties in Cyprus will be subject to Cypriot laws.
- If you have no living relatives or possible heirs left, you may choose to distribute your entire estate as you wish.
- Make sure that all instructions related to providing care for your sick, disabled or incapacitated relatives as well as your minor dependants are clear and acceptable to their respective legal guardians and/or custodians.
- Choose a trusted ‘executor’ who you know will carry out your instructions to the letter.
- Do not forget to put your signature as the testator, making sure you also either sign or initial each page. If you are not able to sign it for whatever reason, have your duly authorized legal representative do it for you.
- Have at least two witnesses present as you sign the will and have them as witnesses also to each other’s signing.
- Keep your last will in a safe place. File it with a court, if you must, to keep it from getting lost or destroyed.
Review your will from time to time, especially if there are changes in your circumstances that may render some of its provisions invalid. Make sure you consider possible amendments or corrections you may need to make. Carefully evaluate how such alterations may affect the validity of the whole document.
Having a Last Will is a crucial way of ensuring you will have a say in the future of your family and your estate after your passing. Therefore, take time to carefully consider the contents of your will and make an effort to guarantee it’s legally valid.