The law governing wills and succession in the TRNC is Chapter 195 of the Laws of Cyprus. In general, British expatriates have complete freedom to dispose of their property in the TRNC by will to whomever they wish. For information on the procedure for making a Will, please request a copy of our ‘Guide to making a Will in the TRNC’. The procedure to follow when a person dies depends on two factors: – Whether or not the deceased was a resident of the TRNC at the time of death – Whether or not the deceased left a valid Will.
PERSONS DOMICILED IN THE TRNC OR WHO HAD A RESIDENCE IN THE TRNC AT THE DATE OF THEIR DEATH
If the deceased died intestate (without leaving a will).
The Rules of Inheritance
If you own property jointly with your spouse, there is no guarantee that your spouse will inherit your share of the property on your death unless you have left a Will to that effect. Property that is jointly owned is considered to be owned jointly by the joint owners and not jointly owned.
If a TRNC resident dies intestate (without leaving a will) and leaves a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse has the following rights: 1/6 of the estate goes to the surviving spouse (or, if there are more than 5 children, the spouse receives a share equal to the share of any of the children) and the remainder is divided among the children (or, if the children are deceased, the grandchildren). If there are no surviving children, ½ of the estate goes to the surviving spouse and the remainder goes to the surviving parents of the deceased and the siblings of the deceased or, if the siblings are also deceased, to their children (i.e., the nieces/nephews of the deceased).
However, if all beneficiaries agree with letters and consents, the assets can be transferred to a single beneficiary. If there are no surviving children, parents, siblings or nieces/nephews, the surviving spouse will receive ¾ of the estate and the remainder will be distributed among the deceased’s other closest living relatives up to the 4th degree (e.g., first cousins, etc.). If there are no surviving relatives within the 4th degree, the remainder is distributed.
If a TRNC resident dies intestate without leaving a spouse, the entire estate goes to the deceased’s children (or, if the children are deceased, to the grandchildren). If there are no children or grandchildren, the estate goes to the deceased’s surviving parents and surviving siblings or, if the siblings are also deceased, to their children (i.e., the deceased’s nieces/nephews). If there are no surviving parents or siblings or nieces/nephews, the estate passes to the next surviving relatives of the deceased. If there are no surviving relatives, the estate passes to the state.
The Intestacy Procedure
The intestacy process for individuals who reside in the TRNC at the time of death is as follows: an initial consultation is scheduled with the deceased’s family so that we can identify the deceased’s legal heirs, the assets the deceased left behind, and the person who wishes to be appointed executor of the estate (this can be a family member, but should be someone who resides in the TRNC, as this person must personally sign the estate papers. If this is not possible, we can act as administrator).
If the legal heirs include minors, two administrators must be appointed. Once the family has decided who should be appointed as executor, a letter of consent (called a ‘muvafakatname’ in Turkish) must be obtained from each of the legal heirs confirming their agreement to the appointment of that person as executor.
The consent form is prepared by us and signed by the legal heirs at a local notary public in the TRNC, or instructions can be given for it to be signed abroad. If it is not possible to obtain the consent form from all the legal heirs, it is possible to send a copy of the certificate of inheritance by registered post to the legal heirs so that they can object to the appointment within 8 days. This is not usually very practical as the Registrar of Probate requires the personal signature of the legal heir on the certificate of service and most international courier services do not obtain this. It is therefore also possible to advertise the proposed appointment of the executor in a local TRNC newspaper and again wait 8 days for any objections to be filed. Next, we prepare a list of the names of the legal heirs of the deceased to be signed by the local Muhtar and his two assistants (Azars) in the village where the deceased resided.
This letter is called ‘Muhtar Şahadetnamesi’ in Turkish. Normally, the family takes this letter to the Muhtar and sends it back to us. These two documents must then be returned by us together with the original death certificate,the application (which must be prepared by us and which must state the date/place of death of the deceased, the names of the legal heirs of the deceased, the name of the person to be appointed as executor of the estate, and the estimated value of the estate) and an accompanying affidavit (to be prepared by us and sworn to by the person seeking appointment as executor) must be filed in the circuit court of the county in which the deceased resided. In addition, a bond must be signed by two sureties who agree to guarantee the proper performance of the duties of the administrator.
The amount of the surety bond must be twice the appraised value of the estate, and the sureties must execute a separate affidavit certifying that they have sufficient personal assets to cover that amount. If we act as administrator, we may arrange for our employees to act as guarantors for the performance of our obligations as administrator. However, if a member or the family of the deceased is to act as administrator, the family must also appoint two people as guarantors.
There is a waiting period of 14 (days) after the application is submitted before further action can be taken. When the application is filed, a sealed copy of the application must be obtained from the executor of the estate and forwarded to the IRS along with the appropriate application forms. The Inland Revenue will issue a certificate which must be submitted to the executor of the estate at the end of the period.
Registrar after the 14 day waiting period has expired. The Grant of Probate can then be issued. Once the Grant of Probate is issued, the executor can, on production of the Grant of Probate, dispose of all bank accounts held in the name of the deceased and apply to the Vehicle Registration Office to transfer all vehicles registered in the name of the deceased to the legal heirs in accordance with the Probate Rules. The executor also has the power to dispose of immovable property of the deceased. However, the Land Registry requires each of the legal heirs to sign a certified consent form for the sale.
Thereafter, the executor must complete the tax return forms (VD103 and VD104) and submit them to the Inland Revenue in order for the tax assessment to be made. Currently, the threshold for inheritance tax is 30 times the annual minimum wage (which equates to around £100,000). If the value of the estate exceeds this amount, inheritance tax at a rate of 1% is charged on the amount in excess of the £100,000 threshold. This is calculated by the Inland Revenue and must be paid to the Inland Revenue. If the value of the estate is less than the threshold, the Inland Revenue will issue an exemption certificate. This part of the process can be quite lengthy because if the estate includes real estate, the tax office must obtain a land registry appraisal. This can take several months.
Once the Inheritance Tax Assessment has been completed and all payments have been made, the file is forwarded to the Land Registry so that the title deeds for all properties can be registered in the names of the beneficiaries named in the Will. It can take several months for the Land Registry to complete this process. If the beneficiaries under the Will wish to divide the property differently from that set out in the Will or the Probate Rules, an agreement can be drawn up and signed between the beneficiaries and submitted to the Land Registry for the Land Registry to make an appropriate division.
If The Deceased Left a Valid Will
If a person who was resident in the TRNC at the time of death dies and leaves a valid Will, the deceased’s estate will pass in accordance with the terms of that Will and the probate process will proceed as follows: an initial consultation will be arranged with the deceased’s family so that we can take details of the deceased’s legal heirs and the assets left behind and check the validity of the Will. As with probate (see above), we prepare the ‘Muhtar Şahadetnamesi’ which the family must take to the Muhtar and return to us.
This must then be returned by us together with the original will, the original death certificate, the application for the executor’s certificate (which will be prepared by us and will state the date/place of death, the names of the legal heirs, the name of the person to be appointed as executor, and the estimated value of the estate) and an affidavit (prepared by us and sworn to by the person appointed executor, in which the executor swears to administer the estate properly and correctly) must be filed in the local county court in whose county the deceased resided. If the person named as executor in the will is unwilling or unable to act as executor, we can take a disclaimer from that person.
The family must then decide who should be appointed administrator in place of the executor. Once the family has decided this, a letter of consent or ‘muvafakatname’ (see above under probate) must be obtained from each of the legal heirs confirming their agreement to the appointment of the administrator.
As with probate, a bond must be signed by two guarantors agreeing to guarantee the proper performance of the executor’s duties. Finally, an affidavit must be filed by the witnesses who attested the will. The rest of the procedure is the same as for probate.
PERSONS NOT DOMICILED OR WHO DID NOT HAVE A RESIDENCE IN THE TRNC AT DATE OF THEIR DEATH
The families of UK persons who were not resident or domiciled in the TRNC at the time of their death and who are therefore unable to obtain the above letter from the Muhtar must apply to the courts in the UK for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration. Once the Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration has been obtained in this manner, an application can be made to the Lekfosa District Court to have that Grant resealed for use in the TRNC. To apply for resealing, we need the following documents:
The original certificate of inheritance or probate, certified by the TRNC office in the country where the certificate of inheritance was issued (or, if there is no TRNC office in that country, by the Turkish Embassy in that country).
The original death certificate.
The original will (if applicable).
We will also require a power of attorney from the person appointed as executor or administrator under the estate to enable us to administer/distribute the estate in accordance with the will (if there is one) or, if there is no will, in accordance with the probate rules described above.
The families of non-UK nationals who were not resident in the TRNC at the time of their death and are therefore unable to obtain the above letter from the Muhtar must follow the above procedures for TRNC residents (with the exception of obtaining the Muhtar Şahadetnamesi). If a valid will was left, the procedure under the heading ‘if the deceased left a valid will’ will be followed. If no valid will was left, the procedure under the heading ‘if the deceased is immortal’ is followed. The only difference is that the application is filed in the Lefkosa District Court, whereas if the deceased was domiciled in the TRNC, the application is filed in the court of the district in which the deceased resided.