If There's No Will, Who Gets What?

by Christos Iliopoulos, Esq.
Attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece
Master of Laws, International and European Law

Greeks are not prone to leaving a Will, unless perhaps they are very old and/or ill. Superstition may be the reason, or just unwillingness to plan what will happen after someone’s passing. When the deceased has not left a Will, intestate succession laws kick in. Greek law provides that if there is no Will, the surviving issue (children or grandchildren) get three quarters (3/4) or 75% of the estate, while the surviving spouse gets the remaining one quarter (1/4) or 25%.

For instance, if the deceased left assets of total value of 200,000 euros, and no Will, and her close of kin
are her husband and their three children, the intestate succession means that the husband will inherit assets worth of 50,000 euros (1/4), and the three children will get 150,000 euros (3/4), meaning each of the three of them will inherit assets worth of 50,000 euros.

If the deceased left no spouse and only children, then the children inherit the entire estate in equal
shares. If a child has died before the parent, and has had children, these children of the predeceased child will get their parent’s share. So, if someone passes away and leaves one son and two grandchildren of a predeceased daughter, the son will inherit intestate 50% and the two grandchildren will inherit the other 50%, so each of the grandchildren will take 25% of their grandparent’s estate.

If the deceased left no Will, no children and only a spouse, the spouse will get all the estate, unless the deceased had siblings, in which case the spouse will get 50% of the estate and the siblings of the deceased will inherit the other 50%. If one sibling has died before the deceased, his/her children are entitled to get the share, which means that nephews and nieces inherit their uncles and aunts, if their parent has passed away before the deceased.

If someone passes away without a Will and without spouse and children, the siblings and the parents of the deceased get the estate, in equal shares. If one of the siblings is not in life, his/her children get what he/she would have taken if he/she was in life.

If the deceased died intestate and left no parents, spouse, children, siblings, children and grandchildren of siblings, the grandparents of the deceased are entitled to inherit, and if they are not in life, their children or grandchildren inherit.

Half blood siblings get half of the share of the full blood siblings.

Greece, as a civil law jurisdiction, does not allow total freedom of testation and provides for the close of kin, even if they are cut out of the Will. This means that the children and the spouse of the deceased will always get a share, even if the deceased intentionally left them out of the Will, unless they had committed a serious crime against the deceased, in which case it is allowed that they are completely disinherited.

The law which states that the spouse and the children will always take a minimum share is called forced heirship and essentially takes away from the deceased the unlimited freedom to dispose of his/her assets without any restriction. The law of forced heirship in Greece states that the spouse and the children are entitled to claim half of what they would get, if there was no Will. So, if the deceased leaves all his property to a third party, who is not related to him, without any provision for his spouse and children, the deceased’s spouse can claim 12.5% of the estate, since if there was no Will the spouse would have taken 25%. The children of the deceased are entitled to claim 37.5% of the estate, since if there was no Will, the children would have taken 75%.

Equally, if the deceased has left only a spouse, no children and siblings, and leaves a Will which cuts out the spouse, the spouse is entitled to claim 25% of the estate, since if there was no Will, the spouse who inherits with siblings and no children, would have been entitled to a share of 50%.

The children and the spouse who are always entitled to this minimum share are not obliged to take it. They can choose not to claim their minimum or forced share, in which case the Will is enforced in its entirety, even its provisions which cut out the close of kin (children and spouse).

(Posting date 08 October 2015)

Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M., in Athens, Greece, specializing in International and European Business Law. For more information about him, see his brief biographical sketch under the HCS section for Contributing Authors at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/christosiliopoulosbio.html. He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveiliopoulos.html or visit his webpages at the URL http://www.greekadvocate.eu. He can be contacted by e-mail at bm-bioxoi@otenet.gr or ktimatologiolaw@yahoo.gr or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, skype: christos.iliopoulos100 or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS

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