Drafting A Will For Property In Greece


Athens.A person living in Greece, or abroad, wants to make a Will, in order to settle his/her estate. The estate may include assets located abroad and in Greece, or only in Greece. The Will can be drafted abroad or in Greece and under certain conditions, even a Will drafted and executed abroad, can be implemented in Greece after the passing of the testator.

The usual question in the case of a property owner living outside of Greece, who owns assets in Greece, is whether the foreign Will can cover the assets of the testator in Greece, or whether a Greek Will executed in Greece is necessary in order to direct the fate of the assets located in Greece. The basic answer to this question is that, in principle, any Will executed at another country of the world, can be valid and implemented in Greece, as long as the Will is executed according to the laws of the foreign country where it was made and provided that its drafting and directions are not contrary to the fundamental legal principles of Greek law and to the Greek public order. The foreign drafted Will, after the passing of the testator, must first be probated in the foreign country, according to the laws of that country, and then it can be probated by the Greek court making it valid in Greece, too.

If the deceased did not leave a Will, or if the deceased left a Will but issues of minimum share arise by the next of kin, (usually spouse and children of the deceased), the main rule which applies in Greece with regard to which law will be applied in order to establish who are the heirs and what are their shares, is the law of the citizenship of the deceased. If the deceased had the citizenship of two countries, a foreign and the Greek citizenship, Greek law provides that it is Greek law which will be applied with regards to assets located in Greece. If the deceased had the citizenship of a foreign country only, in order to establish who inherits and what share, it will be the law of the foreign country which we will be applied in Greece. However, the transfer of assets located in Greece, (immovable property, movables or money at the bank), will be transferred to the ownership of the heirs according to Greek law and process. They will have to be declared to the Greek tax authority (unless the deceased died until 31st Dec. 2003, in which case the heirs do not pay inheritance tax at all), and for real estate assets, a deed by the notary or a court order, both registered at the land registry, will be needed so that the inherited assets are transferred to the heirs.  

Usually, a foreign Will, containing specific directions for assets in Greece, should be enough. The foreign Will may simply state a general direction that the inheritance will be divided in this or that way, or that specific assets are left to specific heirs. However, there are cases where the foreign Will contains many stipulations which are related to laws and procedures of the foreign country and do not have any practical use in Greece. In that case, the person who wants to make a Will could choose to sign a Greek Will, which will deal exclusively with the assets located in Greece. That way, notions like the “trust” or the “trustees”, which exist in the foreign Will, will be avoided in the Greek Will.

A significant detail in the drafting of the Will of a testator, who owns assets in other countries and in Greece, is to expressly state in the Will that with regards to assets located in Greece, the testator elects Greek law to be applicable. Alternatively, if the testator makes a Greek Will, while he/she has the Greek citizenship and the citizenship of another country, it is again advisable that he/she states in the Will that he/she wishes Greek law to be applied. That may solve problems with regards to which law will be applicable, at least for the assets located in Greece.

   *Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at

the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.


e-mail: bm-bioxoi@otenet.gr