RECENT CHANGES IN THE RULES GOVERNING HAND-WRITTEN WILLS

Law 4182/2013 recently brought some very important changes regarding the hand-written Wills. The provisions of the Greek Civil Code have since long protected and promoted the freedom of the individual to bequeath his or her Estate to whomever he or she chooses. The only condition placed so far to this freedom have been the provisions regarding the minimum forced share that certain next of kin are entitled to by law. Until now, the testator was free to appoint any person he desired as the heir of his Estate, as long as the minimum forced share provisions were not violated. This right applied regardless of the type of Will the testator chose to execute and included the hand-written Wills, thus the Wills drafted entirely by the testator’s own hand, dated and signed by him in accordance with the provisions of Article 1721 of the Greek Civil Code). This right has now been restricted by the aforementioned, recently passed, law, which provides in Article 77 that the testator that does not have any next-of-kin may appoint a third party as the beneficiary of his Estate only by virtue of a Public Will (which is executed before a Notary and in the presence of three witnesses). Pursuant to this provision, one may not appoint a third party as the beneficiary of his Estate, in lack of nest-of-kin, by virtue of a hand-written Will. It should be clarified here that the next-of-kin are the relatives that inherit by law when someone dies intestate, thus without having executed a Will. The aforementioned Law significantly restricts the testator’s freedome, as it sets limitations to the right of the testator to choose any type of Will he desires and to freely appoint his heirs. This regulation applies not only to all hand-written Wills to be drafted in the future and after the new Law comes into effect, but also to those already drafted, provided the testator is still living.

Therefore, anyone that may have drafted a hand-written Will and is still living or anyone that may intend to draft such a Will in the future and that intends to name a third-party as his lawful heir, must take into consideration that these types of Wills are void. Article 77 § 1α states the following: «A third party can be named as an heir of an Estate when there is no next-of-kin only pursuant to a Public Will. b. In the event that, pursuant to a hand-written Will of a person that has passed away at the time that the present law comes into effect, a thid party has been appointed as an heir and there are no next-of-kin, the Court orders a graphological inspection of the Will, in order to determine whether the signature and writings of the testator are genuine. In such cases, the Greek State must be notified at least 30 days prior to the hearing, so that it can attend the trial.»

In a country where the Hand-written Will is very common (as it has no cost for the testator), it becomes apparent that the legislature intended to strengthen the rights of the Greek State (which, under Greek Law, is called as an «heir» when a person dies intestate and has no next-of-kin) but to also prevent third parties from taking advantage of elderly or sick people who have no close relatives and cohersing them into naming such parties as their lawful heirs (a not too rare phenomenon in Greek society, and one that is much harder to take place in the case of a Public Will, where four independent people-the Notary and the witnesses- have an opportunity and an obligation to discover the testator’s true will).

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