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The Inheritance Rights in Greece of a Child Born Out of Wedlock

In Greek law, just like in most legal systems of other countries, the offspring (children, or children of predeceased children) and the spouse are the closest relatives who inherit the property of a deceased person. In other words, the children and the surviving spouse have priority in the inheritance rights of a
person who passed away. If there is no surviving spouse (because he/she predeceased, or because the deceased was never married), then only the child/children have inheritance rights and no other relative can inherit (provided there is no will, of course).

If the deceased left no children, but only a spouse, then the spouse is entitled to half of all the property, (plus the chattel, car etc.), while the siblings of the deceased get the other half. There are, however, many more combinations and possibilities of succession rights among the different types of relatives, which cannot be described in such a short note.

In Greek law, a child born out of wedlock (illegitimate child) can inherit his/her father, if the child is, after its birth, recognized by the father. First of all, the child always inherits his/her mother’s property, irrespective of whether the mother was married or not at the time the child was born. In most cases the relationship between child and mother is created at the time of birth, and that is what Greek law recognizes.

Things are different regarding the relationship between child and the biological father, if the father never married the mother of his child. When a child is born and the father of the child is not married to the mother of the child, the child has no legal relationship with the father (in Greek law). However, there are legal ways to fix this missing legal tie.

First, if the father marries the mother of his child after the birth of the child, he can combine this with the recognition of the child as his own biological child and after that the child obtains proper inheritance rights regarding his/her father’s inheritance.

Another way for a father to create the legal tie with his child (which was born out of wedlock), is to officially recognize that child as his own biological child, without having to marry the mother. This can be done in two ways: either by signing a recognition deed before a notary public in Greece (or before a Greek Consul, around the world), but here we also need the consent of the mother, or by filing a lawsuit petition at the Greek court, asking the court to recognize that he is the real, biological father of the child.

These two ways of recognition of the legal tie between father and his out of wedlock child are both called “willing” recognition, since in both cases the father willingly signs documents, either at the notary or at the court, by which he recognizes that he is the real father.

In addition, there are legal ways for a) the child (until it reaches the age of 19 years, no later than that in Greece) and b) for the mother (within 5 years from the birth of the child) to obtain a court ruling which states that a man is the biological father of a child, even if the man denies such a fact. It is understandable that this requires litigation, which can be fierce and sometimes long lasting.

We must point out that in Greek law there are two somehow conflicting provisions regarding the validity of the willing recognition by a father of his illegitimate child. As far as the inheritance law is concerned, the father does not have a time limit within which he must recognize his child, in order the child to obtain inheritance rights on his property.

But as far as citizenship law is concerned, the father does have the obligation to officially recognize his out of wedlock child before the child reaches the age of 18 years, otherwise his recognition will not help the child get the Greek citizenship. An example: A man who is born in Greece to Greek parents (and therefore has the Greek citizenship by birth), immigrates to Argentina and has a relationship there with a non-Greek woman. A child is born, but the Greek man (father of the child) never marries the non-Greek mother of his child.

After many years the child, who grows up in Argentina, wishes to obtain the Greek citizenship, since his/her father is Greek. If the father has recognized the child (either with a notarized deed or by a court decision) as his own child, before the child became 18 years old, the child can apply for the Greek citizenship, provided the supplementary documentation is submitted to the Greek authorities. If, on the other hand, the father has not recognized the child until it reached the age of 18, the child has very limited (if non at all) chances to obtain the Greek citizenship, even if the father recognizes the child after the age of 18.

What happens with the inheritance rights of an out of wedlock child, if the father is Greek and the child is born and raised in another country? Can this child obtain an inheritance share over the father’s property in Greece? In such a case Greek private international law may prescribe that it is not Greek, but a foreign law which will determine whether the child is a recognized child with legal and inheritance rights over the father’s property or not. If a foreign law (of the country where the child was born and raised) is applicable, there may be additional ways to prove that the child is the recognized child of the father, and not be limited to Greek law and its two ways of recognition, which we described above.

Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at law, 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 He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives section bearing his name at the URL He can be contacted by e-mail at or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS

(Posting date 6 April 2007)

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