Wills and Testament
If you live in the TRNC and / or own property here it is highly recommended that you make a Will in the TRNC. If you have an existing Will in another country there is a risk that your existing Will may not be recognised or accepted here and hence your wishes may not be fulfilled.
Inheritance laws in the TRNC are different from many other countries and if you do not have a Will or only have a Will in your own country your assets may be distributed contrary to your wishes. Chapter 195 ‘Wills & Succession’ of the Laws of Cyprus which has remained largely unchanged since its introduction in 1948, allows a United Kingdom Citizen complete freedom to dispose of his/her movable (personal possessions or money) or immovable property (house/land) by Will. This Law also provide for Other Foreign nationals to dispose of their movable property as they wish, however their immovable property may need to be distributed according to the rules of inheritance.
Section 23 of Chapter 29 states:
23. No will shall be valid unless it shall be in writing and executed in manner hereinafter mentioned, that is to say:
it shall be signed at the foot or end thereof by the testator, or by some other person on his behalf, in his presence and by his direction; and
such signature shall be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
such witnesses shall attest and shall subscribe the will in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other, but no form of attestation shall be necessary; and
if the will consists of more than one sheet of paper, each sheet shall be signed or initialled by or on behalf of the testator and the witnesses.
Cypriot laws on immovable property are contained in Chapter 224 and has strong influence from Ottoman Land Law. In Cypriot law there is a distinction between the ‘Statuatory portion’ and ‘disposable portion’ of one’s estate. The law sets out detailed rules that limit one’s freedom to dispose of his/her property as desired. TRNC nationals and other foreigners (including EU Nationals) are not permitted complete freedom to dispose of their entire estate as they choose.
Regardless of where a person died, in Northern Cyprus or in their home country, if you own assets in the TRNC a ‘Tereke’ (Probate) case will be opened.
If there is no Will or the last Will is not recognized, because it was either created abroad or it was created in the TRNC but contains formal mistakes or is incomplete, the Tereke process can take several years and may be very costly for any heirs. If there is a valid Will according to the local laws, lodged at the District Court, the Tereke will proceed relatively quickly and inexpensively.
If a person dies intestate (i.e. without leaving a Will) their assets will be distributed in accordance with TRNC Inheritance rules i.e.
Where a person dies leaving a wife or husband, such wife or husband shall, after the debts and liabilities of the estate have been discharged, usually be entitled to a share in the statutory portion, and in the undisposed portion if any, as follows, that is to say-
If the deceased has left besides such wife or husband:
a) Any child or descendant (grandchildren) thereof, such share shall be the one-sixth of the statutory portion and of the undisposed portion, but if there be more children than five (whether they be living or represented by descendants) then it shall be a share equal to the share of one of such children:
b) No child nor descendant thereof, but any ancestor or descendant thereof within the third degree of kindred to the deceased, such share shall be the one-half of the statutory portion and of the undisposed portion:
c) No child nor descendant thereof, nor any ancestor or descendant thereof within the third degree of kindred to the deceased, but any ancestor or descendant thereof of the forth degree of kindred to the deceased, such share shall be the three-fourths of the statutory portion and of the undisposed portion:
d) No child nor descendant thereof nor any ancestor or descendant thereof within the fourth degree of kindred to the deceased, such share shall be the whole statutory portion and the whole undisposed portion.
Note: Unmarried partners are not entitled to inherit.
In the TRNC, the state/government only becomes entitled to the proceeds from your estate if there are no “next of kin”. However, six degrees of kindred will be considered, so it is usual that there are living relatives for the estate to be shared between. The Sixth degree includes second cousins or second cousins once or twice removed.
It is far easier and simpler to prepare a Will in the TRNC and lodge it with the Probate Registrar at the District Court. This ensures your assets are protected and avoids doubt about the validity of the Will. Your TRNC Will should only cover your property and other assets in the TRNC, any assets you hold in other countries should be retained in other Wills.
There are several methods you can use to prepare your Will. Many people use their Solicitor to prepare a Will on their behalf, the cost is between £180-£250 (including VAT (KDV)), however cheaper options are available, for example, you can use a Notary who is generally very familiar with the correct formulation of a will, the necessary content, the necessary documents to be provided and especially the procedure of proper deposit at court. Capital Bank, Alsancak Branch can also help you formulate an acceptable Last Will & Testament. The cost is only 75TL for a professionally written Will, tailored to your exact requirements.
Your Will should ideally be prepared in both Turkish and English (or your native language) and must be witnessed by two independent Witnesses, who are not beneficiaries under the Will. Every page of your Will must be signed by both the Testator (person preparing the will) and 2 witnesses, who must be present when the Will is signed. The Testator must be over 18 years old and of sound mind.
The wording of TRNC Wills is fairly standard and is written in relatively plain language. When writing your Will you should use the opening term ‘The Last Will and Testament’ in order to show that it post-dates any previous Wills.
Your Will should be presented to the Probate Registrar at the local District Court, and a copy of the Will should be lodged there.
If you use a Solicitor or a Notary to prepare your Will, they generally arrange the meeting with the Probate Registrar on your behalf and accompany you to the meeting. If you prepare your will yourself with guidance from the Bank or other organisation, you will need to arrange the meeting with the Probate Registrar yourself.
The Probate Registrar checks the Will to ensure the all formalities have been complied with and checks the identity of the testator, you will need you passport and photocopies of the passports of your two witnesses. This reduces the risk of anyone contesting the Will in the future on the ground that it was a forgery or that the relevant formalities had not been complied with. The original Will is stamped and filed at Court and you will receive copies with an official receipt.
The Probate Registrar’s Office is located at the Girne Courthouse go to the 1st office on the left hand side past the arch, to request an appointment, the registrar’s office is the next office along. Working hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 09:00am till 11:00am only. The cost of registration is 98TL, paid in stamps.
Note: the stamps should be 92tl + 6tl as the 92tl stamps are attached to the Will and the 6tl stamps are put in the registration book. After the will has been registered and sealed you will be given a receipt with the reference number of the will. You should keep this in a safe place together with a copy of the Will as you executors will require this document to recover the Will.
When preparing a will you should take the following into account:
Who do you want to be your Executor(s) (an executor can also be a beneficiary)
This could be a solicitor or a close friend/relative
If your Will is simple a ‘lay’ executor will be sufficient
If you Will is more complex it may be preferable to appoint a solicitor
What assets do you have in the TRNC for example
Property / Land
Savings in Bank Accounts
Other high value personal items or items of special significance
Who do you want to be the beneficiaries and what do you want to leave to each beneficiary or how do you want your estate apportioned.
Note: you should review your Will regularly to make sure it does not need amending. Name changes or change of addresses do not necessarily mean you need to make a new Will but you should keep evidence of such changes so that your Executors can produce any documentary proof required by the Court. If you make changes to your Will it is recommended that you prepare a new Will as making changes by adding a Codicil, can cause problems under Cypriot Law.
Wills Prepared Outside the TRNC
It is possible, if you leave a will in the UK covering your property/assets in Northern Cyprus, to complete the probate work in the UK and then, once the Grant of Probate has been issued in the UK, to apply to the courts here for the Grant of Probate to be re-sealed and re-validated for use in the TRNC so that the terms of the Grant of Probate and the Will can be applied to the estate here. The UK Grant of Probate must be obtained and certified by the TRNC consulate in London together with various other original documents. This can be a lengthy process and may require trips to the TRNC by your Executor.
If the Will is signed outside of the country but states that it covers property in the TRNC, providing the above formalities have been complied with, it will be valid. However, in the event of death, proving the Will can more difficult. Sometimes, as part of the probate procedure, the witnesses to the Will could be required to attend court or sign documents. This may be complicated if they live abroad.
Note: the Probate Registrar at the District Court will not accept the registration of Wills signed outside of the country.
After your death, the appointed executor or executors of your Will then need to apply to the Probate Court for a Grant of Probate or Administration. The Grant of Probate/Representation is issued by the Probate Registry and gives the Executor or Administrator the authority to administer your estate according to the law and the terms of your Will.
Processes When a Person Dies in the TRNC - Process if a Person Dies Intestate
The probate procedure on intestacy for those domiciled in the TRNC at the time of their death is as follows: An initial consultation is arranged with the family of the deceased for your solicitor to take details of the legal heirs of the deceased, the property which the deceased left behind and the person who would like to be appointed as the Administrator of the estate (this can be a family member but should be someone who is in the TRNC as this person will need to sign the probate papers in person. If this is not practical, we can act as the Administrator). If the legal heirs include minors, two Administrators must be appointed. Once the family has decided who should be appointed as the Administrator, a consent form (known as a ‘Muvafakatname’ in Turkish) needs to be obtained from each of the legal heirs confirming their consent to the appointment of that person as the Administrator. The consent form is prepared by your lawyer and is signed by the legal heirs at a local notary in the TRNC or instructions can be provided for this to be signed abroad. Where it is not possible to obtain the consent form from all of the legal heirs, it is possible to arrange for a copy of the probate application to be served on the legal heirs by registered post giving them 8 days to file an objection to the appointment. This is usually not very practical as the Probate Registrar requires the signature of the legal heir personally on the delivery slip and most international couriers do not obtain this. It is, therefore, also possible to advertise the proposed appointment of the Administrator in a local TRNC newspaper and, again, wait 8 days for any objections to be filed. Next, your lawyer will prepare a list of the names of the legal heirs of the deceased and this must be signed by the local Muhtar and his two assistants (Azars) in the village where the deceased resided. This letter is called a ‘Muhtar Şahadetnamesi’ in Turkish. Usually, the family will take this to the Muhtar and return it to their lawyer. These two documents then need to be submitted by your lawyer to the District Court in the district in which the deceased resided together with the original death certificate, application (to be prepared by your lawyer detailing the date/place of death of the deceased, the names of the deceased’s legal heirs, the name of the person who is to be appointed as the Administrator and the estimated value of the estate) and an accompanying affidavit (to be prepared by your lawyer and sworn by the person applying to be appointed as the Administrator). In addition, a bond must be signed by two guarantors who will agree to guarantee the correct performance of the duties of the Administrator. The amount of the bond must be twice the estimated value of the estate and the guarantors must swear a separate affidavit confirming that they have sufficient personal assets to meet this. Where a solicitor act as the Administrator, their staff usually act as guarantors to the performance of the lawyers obligations as Administrators. Where, however, a member or the family of the deceased is to act as the Administrator, the family must also appoint two persons to act as the guarantors. There is a waiting period of 14 (days) after the application is handed in before any further action can be taken. When the application is submitted, a sealed copy of the application must be obtained from the Probate Registrar and given to the Tax Office with the relevant application forms. The Tax Office will issue a certificate which must then be presented to the Probate Registrar after the expiry of the 14 day waiting period. The Grant of Probate can then be issued. Once the Grant has been issued, any money in any bank accounts in the name of the deceased can with withdrawn by the Administrator on production of the Grant and the Administrator can also apply to the Vehicle Registration Office for any vehicles in the name of the deceased to be transferred to the legal heirs in accordance with the intestacy rules. The Executor also has the power to sell any immovable properties of the deceased; however, the Land Registry will require each of the legal heirs to sign a certified consent form consenting to the sale. Thereafter, the executor must complete the tax declaration forms (VD103 and VD104) and submit these to the Tax Office for the tax assessment to be carried out. This will be calculated by the Tax Office and payment must be made to the Tax Office. If the value of the estate is less than the threshold, the Tax Office will issue an exemption certificate. This part of the process can be fairly lengthy as, if the estate includes immovable property, the Tax Office will need to obtain a Land Registry valuation. This can take several months. One the inheritance tax assessments have been completed and any payments made, the file passes to the Land Registry for the title deeds to any immovable property to be registered in the names of the beneficiaries as stated in the will. It can take several months for the Land Registry to complete this process. Where the beneficiaries under the will wish to divide the property in a way other than that specified in the will or in the intestacy rules, an agreement can be drawn up and signed between the beneficiaries and presented to the Land Registry for the Land Registry to distribute this accordingly.
Where the deceased died leaving a valid will
Where a person domiciled in the TRNC at the date of their death dies leaving a valid Will, the estate of the deceased will pass according to the terms of that Will and the probate procedure will be as follows: An initial consultation is arranged with the family of the deceased for your lawyer to take details the details of the legal heirs of the deceased, the property which the deceased left behind and to check the validity of the Will. As with intestacy (outlined above), your lawyer will prepare the ‘Muhtar Şahadetnamesi’ for the family to take to the Muhtar and return. This will then need to be submitted by your lawyer to the local District Court in the District in which the deceased resided together with the original will, the original death certificate, the application for the Grant (to be prepared by your lawyer and detailing the date/place of death, the names of the legal heirs, the name of the person who is appointed as the Executor and the estimated value of the estate) and an affidavit (to be prepared by your lawyer and sworn by the person appointed as Executor of the will under which the Executor swears to administer the estate properly and correctly). Where the person appointed as the Executor in the will is not willing/able to act as Executor, then your lawyer can take a renunciation from that person. The family will then need to decide who should be appointed as the Administrator in place of the Executor. Once the family has decided on this, a consent form or ‘Muvafakatname’ (detailed above under intestacy) needs to be obtained from each of the legal heirs confirming their consent to the appointment the Administrator.
As with intestacy, a bond must be signed by two guarantors who will agree to guarantee the correct performance of the duties of the Executor. Finally, an affidavit needs to be sworn by the witnesses who attested the will. The remainder of the process is the same as with intestacy.
Persons not domiciled or did not have a residence in the TRNC at the date of their death
The families of British persons who were not domiciled in the TRNC or did not have a residence in the TRNC at the date of their death and who, as such, are not able to obtain the letter from the Muhtar detailed above must apply to obtain the Grant of Probate or the Grant of Administration from the courts in the UK. Once the Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration has been obtained in this way, an application can then be submitted to the Lekfosa District Court for this Grant to be re-sealed for use in the TRNC. In order to submit the application for re-sealing, your lawyer will require the following documents:
The original Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration certified by the TRNC Representative Office in the country in which it was granted (or where there is no TRNC Representative Office in that country, the Turkish Embassy in that country.
The original death certificate.
The original will (if applicable).
Your lawyer will also take a power of attorney from the person appointed as the Executor or Administrator under the Grant so that they can complete the administration/distribution of the estate in accordance with the will (if there is one) or, if there is no will, in accordance with the intestacy rules detailed above.
The families of non-British subjects who were not domiciled in the TRNC at the date of their death and who, as such, are not able to obtain the letter from the Muhtar detailed above, must follow the procedures outlined above for those domiciled in the TRNC (except for obtaining the Muhtar Şahadetnamesi). If a valid will was left, the procedure under the heading ‘where the deceased left a valid will’ is followed. If a valid will was not left, the procedure under the heading ‘where the deceased died intestate’ is followed. The only difference is that the application is filed in the Lefkosa District Court, whereas when the deceased is domiciled in the TRNC, the application would be filed in the Court in the district in which the deceased resided.
Inheritance Tax in the TRNC
The inheritance tax threshold is 30 times the annual minimum wage (which equates to around £100,000). If the value of the estate exceeds that amount, inheritance tax will be paid on the amount over the £100,000 threshold at the rate of 1%.
Source: BRS Residents presentation 17/11/18;