Make a Will for your property & other assets in Cyprus

A Cyprus WillAs soon as you have signed a contract to buy a property in Cyprus, I strongly recommend that you get an independent lawyer to draw up a Will covering those assets you hold in Cyprus. The consequence of passing away without a making a Will covering your property and other possessions can be extremely serious.

Many home buyers assume that if their property is held in joint names then on the death of one party the property passes automatically to the other joint owner; this is not the case in Cyprus.

Some people write a Will themselves, using information that is freely available on the Internet. These people are, in my opinion, extremely foolish!

Wills for expatriates and the Inheritance Tax implications for UK domiciled or ex-domiciled individuals is a complex area of law and I recommend you seek advice from an independent lawyer with detailed knowledge of both jurisdictions.

Making a Will in Cyprus

If you have bought property in Cyprus or are considering moving to the island, it is vital that you review the provisions of your existing Will (if you have one) and take legal advice to ensure you have the correct measures in place to deal with your Cyprus property and other assets on your death.

If you have a Will in your existing country of residence, do not rely on that Will to deal with your Cyprus assets without having sought expert legal advice from a lawyers experienced in dealing with the administration of cross border estates.

I strongly recommend that you have a separate Cyprus Will drawn up that deals with your assets held in Cyprus:

  • In England, if a husband and wife own a property, they are considered as joint tenants, which is a form of holding title where the owners have 100% rights of survivorship unless redirected by a Will.

    When a joint tenant dies, their share of the property automatically passes to the survivor.
  • In Cyprus, if a husband and wife own a property, they are considered as tenants in common, which is a form of co-ownership by which each owner holds an undivided interest in real property as if they were the sole owner. Unlike joint tenants, tenants in common have right of inheritance.

    When a tenant in common dies, their share of the property does NOT automatically pass to the survivor.

(It will cost you in the region of 200 to have each Will drawn up (plus VAT) plus Stamp Duty, which will cost you a further €17.09 per Will).

In Cyprus, the estate has to be administered and the property passes in accordance with the terms of their Cyprus Will or the Cyprus intestacy provisions. It is most important to make a Will in Cyprus to cover the distribution of your home and other assets owned on the island. This will avoid the complications that would arise from the conflict of two different legal systems and the risk of the estate being divided under local rules.

If you have assets in the UK (or any other country) then you generally need to have one will covering those assets held in the UK and a second Will covering those assets held in Cyprus. However, it is most important that if one of these Wills is made at a later date it does not unintentionally revoke the first Will. Great care has to be taken in the review and wording of the two Wills.

Under Cyprus Law there is a system of forced heirship. E.g. If a person dies leaving a spouse and a child then ¾ of the estate passes to the spouse and child in equal shares and the testator (the person making the Will) has the freedom to dispose of the remaining quarter share as they wish. However, currently under Cyprus law, there is a concession for persons who/or whose fathers were born in the UK or in a Commonwealth country. Providing they have made a Will, such persons are allowed to leave their Cyprus assets to whom they wish on their death. If this concession does not apply to you then you must seek legal advice.

Appointing executors

You are free to appoint whoever you wish to act as the executors of your Will. However, if you appoint a non-Cypriot resident as your executor, perhaps one or more of your children, then this could involve them in a lot of expense visiting the island to sort out your estate..

An alternative approach would be to appoint close friends who are resident in Cyprus as your executors. They will then be able to 'shop' around for a lawyer to deal with probate.

A word of caution

Although the Cyprus Bar Association specifies the minimum amount lawyers can charge in their role as executors, it does not specify a maximum figure. And I know of people who have been charged a kings ransom by unscrupulous solicitors for dealing with their late partner's estate.

To avoid this situation, you should negotiate the charges for dealing with your estate with your lawyer - and once agreed you should have them included in a clause in your Will.

By doing this, your lawyer will not be bound by the Cyprus Bar Association's minimum fees and it will prevent 'overenthusiastic' charging by any of your executor(s).

However, if your lawyer is reluctant to agree fees for handling your estate, I suggest that appoint close friends or relatives to act as your executors as suggested above.