Current Questions on Turkish Inheritance Law
What is a Certificate of Inheritance?
The certificate of inheritance is a public document that lists the legally determined heirs and their shares in the inheritance. In Turkey, one can apply for the certificate of inheritance at the local court or at a notary. Foreign nationals are not allowed to apply for the certificate of inheritance at a notary. Without this certificate, the estate cannot be divided.
What is the Legal Succession According to Turkish Inheritance Law?
In Turkish inheritance law, the relatives of the deceased are divided into three legal orders of inheritance. The first order comprises the descendants of the deceased (all persons descended from the deceased, i.e., children and adopted children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren). The second order consists of the deceased’s parents and their descendants (father, mother, brother, sister, nephew, niece, grandnephew, grandniece, etc.). The third order consists of the deceased’s grandparents and their descendants (grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin, etc.).
If the deceased has left no heirs, the estate passes to the state.
The spouse is also a legal heir alongside each order with different inheritance shares.
Anticipated Succession According to Turkish Inheritance Law
Anticipated succession is relevant in cases involving individuals residing abroad, daughters, or in the case of a second marriage, for or against children from the first marriage. The testator transfers their assets during their lifetime to the desired heirs or individuals, usually to reduce or eliminate the compulsory portion of the inheritance for entitled heirs. The goal may simply be to significantly reduce the estate. The testator often retains a usufruct or a right of residence.
Heirs or compulsory heirs who are faced with this issue can claim compulsory portion supplementary claims or claims for allocations subject to equalization. There is no legal deadline for filing these claims as they are considered transfers made in bad faith.
What is the Compulsory Share According to Turkish Inheritance Law?
Those who are excluded from the succession are entitled to half of their legal inheritance share according to Turkish law. The law stipulates that the testator can leave their estate to someone of their choice. The testator cannot, however, prejudice the compulsory shares of the heirs. In other words, regardless of the will, the heirs have certain claims to the estate. The compulsory share claims expire within a period of one year following the death, and after the compulsory heir has learned about the disposition of the deceased.
Division of the Estate During the Testator’s Lifetime
The testator can dispose of their estate during their lifetime, e.g., leave a will or enter into an inheritance agreement. As long as the compulsory shares of the heirs have been taken into account, no equalization or reduction lawsuit can be filed due to the division. In Turkey, it is common for properties that could be part of the estate to be “sold” to sons, and then to be registered in the land registry as owners. Because of this sham transaction, disadvantaged heirs have the option of filing a cancellation or reduction lawsuit. According to Turkish inheritance law, there is no differentiation between heirs based on gender, i.e., male and female heirs are equal. Purchases and donations that violate legal regulations can be contested in court.
General Procedure for the Settlement of an Estate in Turkey
In the settlement of an estate in Turkey, a certificate of inheritance must be applied for initially. If all heirs are Turkish nationals, the certificate can be applied for at the local court or notary. If at least one of the heirs is a foreign national, then the certificate of inheritance must be applied for in court with evidence.
Once the certificate of inheritance is issued, the heirs must assess the estate and accordingly declare and pay the inheritance tax at the tax office, which is in the district of the last residence of the deceased. Before this step, the due property taxes must be paid for the properties. After receiving the tax clearance certificates from the tax office, the division of the estate can begin: for example, properties can be transferred and then sold, bank accounts and safes can be closed, and vehicles can be transferred. During the division, all heirs must act together. Otherwise, an heir would be limited in the division and everything would have to be done as a community of heirs. Even for the sale of properties, one of the heirs must file an auction lawsuit, which disadvantages all heirs.
If a will is present, it must first be opened by the court; accordingly, a certificate of inheritance will then be issued. It may then still be necessary to file a will execution lawsuit. The compulsory heir can file a reduction lawsuit against it if his rights have been reduced by the will.
Within What Time Frame Can an Inheritance be Declined in Turkish Law?
It is also possible to decline an inheritance according to Turkish law. For this, the heirs have a legal period of three months from the death of the deceased. The heirs, who want to decline the inheritance in Turkey, must first present a Turkish certificate of inheritance to the court to prove that they are actually heirs. After the decline, the existing certificate of inheritance is corrected. Under certain conditions, this period of three months can be extended to six months.
How can the bank accounts of the deceased be closed and how can the heirs withdraw the money from the bank?
- Heirs must obtain a certificate of inheritance that proves they are the heirs.
- An official letter showing the amount in the accounts as of the date of death should be obtained from the banks where the deceased had an account, addressed to the tax office.
- The amount in the accounts as of the date of death should be reported to the tax office through an inheritance and transfer declaration, and the tax office should levy the inheritance tax.
- After the inheritance tax is paid, the tax office should issue an official letter addressed to the banks stating that the inheritance relationship of the deceased has been severed.
- All heirs should go to the bank together to withdraw the money in the bank, or with authorized representatives. If not all the heirs can go to the bank and not all the heirs can be represented, then a court application must be made to convert the joint ownership into fractional ownership.
After these conditions are met, the remaining money in the bank can be withdrawn and the accounts can be closed with the certificate of inheritance, the document indicating that the inheritance relationship has been severed, and the identities of the heirs.
How can you commission Koca & Ersoz for legal representation?
In principle, before taking up legal activities, a notarized authorization must be made (at the Turkish consulate or at a German notary with an apostille). You can obtain the sample power of attorney from us in person.
I have legal protection insurance. How does that work?
Initially, for the consultation, no authorization is needed. But it is needed for court representation! Hand over a copy of your insurance policy to us or contact your legal protection insurance yourself to obtain a cost coverage commitment. This is usually granted unless there is a contractual exclusion of your legal dispute.
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