Contrary to what applies in the United States, in Greece the freedom each person enjoys regarding the disposition of his/her estate is subject to significant restrictions regarding certain family members, such as his or her children, spouse and parents. According to the applicable Greek laws, a part of each decedent’s estate must be distributed to the above relatives. This part is called “minimum forced inheritance share” in Greece; this equals half of the inheritance share each of the above relatives would be entitled to, if the decedent died intestate (i.e. without leaving a will). Any contributions, however, that the decedent may have given to each of the above heirs while living, are counted against the minimum forced inheritance share in Greece that the heir will be entitled to upon the decedent’s death (for instance, if the decedent, while still leaving, gifted to one of his children a property, the value of this property counts towards the percentage of the minimum forced inheritance share in Greece that this child is entitled to from his parent’s inheritance).
The minimum forced inheritance share provisions in Greece apply in the following two cases:
- When there is a will: in the event that the relatives (children, spouse and parents) would inherit, had the testator died intestate, and do not inherit by virtue of the will (or inherit less than the minimum forced share) and
- Intestate: when the existing inheritance does not suffice to cover the minimum forced share, due to conveyances the decedent made while living or due to restrictions that have been placed by virtue of a will.
It is important to understand that the minimum forced inheritance share right in Greece only exists when those entitled to it would inherit, if notwill exists.