The Global Property Guide looks at inheritance from two angles: taxation, and what inheritance laws apply to foreigners leaving property in Croatia: what restrictions there are and whether making a will is advisable.
Inheritance tax is levied at a flat rate of 5% in Croatia. The taxable inheritance is the market value of the estate less the debts and expenses related to the inherited assets.
Movable property received as gifts will be taxed only if its total value exceeds HKR50,000 (€6,570).
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The principal laws applying to inheritance proceedings in Croatia are: the Inheritance Act, Law on Resolution of Conflict of Laws with the Provisions of Other Countries in Certain Matters (Act on Conflict of Laws Rules) and Ownership and Other Property Rights Act. Members of different nationalities or religions owning property in Croatia do not come under different inheritance laws. The applicable laws are not influenced by the nationality of the deceased’s spouse, or whether the deceased was resident in Croatia or abroad at the time of death.
Although inheritance proceedings for foreigners owning property in Croatia are held exclusively before Croatian courts, the substantive law of the country of the deceased’s nationality may be applied. Croatian courts may not recognize foreign courts’ decisions regarding the inheritance of real property in Croatia, but may recognize the distribution of the movable assets and/or money of the deceased.
The municipal court of the deceased’s place of residence is, in the first instance, competent to handle inheritance proceedings. If the deceased did not reside in Croatia, then the competent court is the municipal court in the location where the property was registered by the Land Registry. In the last two years, following new regulations to expedite the proceedings, municipal courts have been able to transfer inheritance files to Public Notaries, who act as courts’ commissioners.
Inheritance proceedings usually take between 1 to 6 months, depending on the cooperation of the heirs and the completeness of the documentation. If no disputes develop, then Public Notaries are able to complete the proceedings; however, if the determination of the heirs and/or the distribution of property is disputed, then Notaries will return inheritance files to the courts to decide the issue in dispute.
Inheritance proceedings usually include 1-3 hearings, in which heirs give statements, and documents are collated concerning the ownership of the property, and the heirs’ relationship with the deceased. Proceedings for foreign heirs may be delayed, since data from the Land Registry must be recovered, and original birth certificates must be presented, properly notarized, and legalized, usually by Apostille and translated into Croatian by a licensed court interpreter.
In the absence of a will the entire estate goes to “heirs by the law”, who are compulsory heirs classified into ranks determined by Croatian inheritance law. In the absence of “heirs by the law” the estate goes to the municipality where the real-estate is located.
There are two categories of ‘’heirs by the law’’ who may apply for reserved portions if excluded by will. The first category are the descendants (including adopted children) and spouse, who always inherit the reserved portion after applying at court. The second category includes the parents, adoptive parents, and other ancestors, who can only apply to inherit the reserved portion if they are permanently incapable of work, and/or do not have the means to support themselves.
The reserved portion for the first category is 1/2 of the proportion that each heir would legally receive if the deceased had no will. For example, if the deceased made no will, and left a spouse and two children, each heir would inherit equal proportions i.e. 1/3 of the legacy; however, if the deceased bequeathed an entire estate to only one child in a will, according to the reserved portion rule, the spouse and the other child would be entitled to 1/6 each (i.e. 1/2 of 1/3 =1/6) whilst the child who inherited by the will would receive the remaining 4/6 of the estate.
The reserved portion for the second category equals 1/3 of the legacy they would legally inherit if the deceased had no will. They are only called for legacy if there are no “heirs by the law” in previous ranks. The residual or separate portion of the estate may be gifted to any other person without restriction; however, if a compulsory heir has already inherited the same or more than he/she is entitled to under the reserved portion rule, then he/she may not apply for a separate portion.
The debts of the deceased must be recovered from the estate. Heirs are jointly liable for such debts up to the value they have inherited.
A will is formally valid in Croatia if made in accordance with the laws of:
Croatian Inheritance law recognizes two types of will: the Private Will, written and signed by the testator in handwriting or before two witnesses; and the Public Will, presented before Municipal courts, Public Notaries, or Embassies.
Making a will in Croatia is a personal decision, which enables the testator to determine “heirs by the will” instead of “heirs by the law”. The execution of a will does not change the time of the inheritance proceedings, except for delays if a will is contested.
Property in Croatia may be given freely to anyone prior to the death of the owner, and such gifts are not restricted. After the death of the property owner, any gifts made to the “heirs by the law” at any time, or to other persons during the last year of the owner’s life, can be challenged by those who have a right to inherit a separate portion.
Croatian law looks primarily at the Title Deeds registered with the Land Registry to determine the ownership of property. Anyone may challenge ownership of property by separate litigation, and inheritance proceedings will be interrupted until the final judgment on ownership is reached. Ownership of property between foreign spouses is regulated by the laws of the country of their citizenship. If the spouses are citizens of different countries, the law of their common or last common residence applies to their ownership of the property. If the applicable law can not be determined on this basis, then Croatian law applies.
Spouses in Croatian law are co-owners in equal shares of all property acquired during marriage, apart from that inherited or received as a gift, regardless of who has the Title. If the spouse is not registered as the co-owner of the property in the Land Registry and heirs are challenging a spouse’s co-ownership, then the spouse must initiate litigation proceedings and obtain legal judgment on ownership.
In cases when the property or part of it goes on death to a child or children not of legal age or to others not legally adult, a guardian is appointed. The guardian is usually a parent, except when a parent is also an heir, in which case a conflict of interest exists, and a Center for Social Welfare appoints a guardian, usually an attorney at law.
The information above refers only to cases where reciprocity exists between citizens of Croatia and the country of the heirs’ citizenship. If an heir cannot, by law, own a property in Croatia, due to the lack of reciprocal property-owning rights, then he/she is compensated by the State for the value of the property. Regardless of the existence of reciprocal property-owning rights, certain categories of property (e.g. forests) may not, according to special laws, be owned by foreigners. The State compensates the value of such property to foreign inheritors.
The deceased’s spouse, direct blood relatives, and adopters/adoptees are exempted from paying inheritance Tax (i.e. 5% of the commercial value of inherited property) Brothers and sisters, their descendants, and sons/daughters-in-law are also exempted from inheritance tax if they lived in the same house as the deceased at the time of his/her death according to Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 on Abolishing the Requirement on Legalization of Foreign Public Documents.
#1 CAROLYN DJURANIC | March 18, 2010
my mother passed away 4 yrs ago she has land in Pula which was given to the 3 children.How do we go about getting our mothers name changed to our names...my aunt wanted me to give her power of attorney to get it fixed up for me the problem is I do not trust as I do not know if they can take the land from us children..can someone pls give advice if you can..Thanks Karly
#2 GRACIJELA KNAPIC | April 07, 2010
This reply is to Carolyn Djuranic - You can go to a Croatian Notary Public, who will draw the Power of Attorney for you. I did it for my family. Be very specific that you are notarizing who ever you want to do a specific thing. For instance, you may give power of attorney to your aunt, saying this is in regard to the land in Pula, located so and so, to change your Mother's (her full name) portion to your name. also, state that the land cannot be sold without your permission. When the land is sold you will have to give another power of attorney, make sure you include in it your full name, bank name, routing #, acct. #, NOT SEPARATELY. Trust me, people will try to cheat you left and right, I've been through it. If you do not have a Notary Public who speaks Croatian, then you can go through the Croatian consulate. Going through the Notary is easier, they write the Power of Attorney, you go to court so that they can confirm that he is licensed, then you go and get the Apostile, the Notary will tell you where in your city there's one and then you give to who ever will represent you. You can even call Opcinski sud Pula,
Silvija Strahimira KranjÄ¨eviÄ‡a 8
011 385 52 377600
Do you speak Croatian? If you do and you do not trust your aunt, or if someone who speaks Croatian can help you, have them call the number above and ask to recommend a Notary Public in Pula, who can draw the papers for you. If you feel most comfortable going with the Croatian Embassy, in your city, or the next closest one, they will advise you what is the best way to proceed with changing the name from your Mother to yours. Remember, doesn't matter to whom you give power of attorney, even the Notary, always add if it is sold to transfer your portion to your name, and you bank name and account number. If you would like me to explain further, you are welcome to call me at 212-317-6425. Gracijela
#3 DIANA | May 08, 2010
My mother and aunt have lived in California for the past 49 years. They are oringinaly from a beautiful Island in Croatia called Soline, which is a village on dugi otok. My mothers youngest sister still lives there along with her husband and children. My mother and aunts family home has been renovated and with the permission of my mother and aunt who live here, my aunt back there has been renting it out to travlers from all over. Unknown to us, this has been very lucrative for my aunts 2 children who have families of their own and live on the main land. My aunt who lives on Soline, lives in her own house next door to the family house. My faimily and I have visited from time to time when I was a child. I took my family last summer and was in shock at the changes over the past 20 years. I was also bothered by the fact that the family there has been pushing my mother and aunt her to sign over their rights to the house and lots of land. My aunt and mother will not do his, seeing that I my brother and 2 cousins here would like to go and use the house as much as we can over the summers and want to make sure that our children have this for them too. What do we need to do in order to protect us who live in the state from being cheated out of this. The family there can rent it out and keep the money, we just want to make sure that we can use the house when we come to visit and if a hotel wants to purchase any of the beach front property my mother and her sisters own. We ant ours!What do we need to do??
#4 STEVEN | June 16, 2010
My fathers mother is listed as a co owner of property in Croatia. She died many years ago. My mother who lives in the USA received a letter from a relative that I believe wants her to transfer her rights to it to him.
The letter came written in Croatian, with a separate letter in English to have her get it notarized and mailed back, not saying why.
Can someone please tell me how I can get a copy of the actual land registry page with the owners of the property in question.
#5 KAREN | June 30, 2010
An elderly gentleman born in Croatia, residing in South Africa is the direct heir to his grandfather`s (deceased) property in Croatia. Mcdonalds build on one of the properties. Who/how do we go about claiming for the properties after so many years have passed? Consulting lawyers just costs too much money!
#6 KAREN | July 21, 2010
It is very hard to get back your property in Croatia. My Grandmother has been fighting for 60 years to get hers back.. she turns 100 this year and she is still fighting for land that is rightfully hers from the war. It has been her whole life! If Mcdonalds is already built, I would say you have a long and exhausting fight on your hands. We are having trouble getting property back from people who squatted on our land during the war when my Nana had to flee Croatia during the war. It is now their property and we cannot get it back! From our experience it is not worth dealing with the Croatian Government as the system seems corrupt.
#7 CHRISOULA | August 15, 2010
Thanks to all your comments and questions....My mom is dealing with selling her property in Croatia, but has become very ill with Cancer. She wants to leave her property to us, her 3 daughters. Is a Canadian will good enough to take to Croatia to make sure her land portion is transfered to us?
#8 SUE | August 24, 2010
My Dad is from Split in Croatia he has gone back there to transfer his land over to me and my Sister he is having so much trouble as he have 4 Newphew's that are giving him hell they can't come to any agreement. Is there anybody in Split Court's that can advise my dad what he can do to get this mess sorted and come to Australia.All he wants is a piece of his land and maybe me or My sister can build a little house so we and the Grandkids can come and stay and see where there Parents and Granparent were born and raised.
Can someone please assist me to waht we can you we are so desperate.Thanks
#9 ANTHONY PESIC | October 24, 2010
My entire family is from croatia, mom's side from olib, and dad's side from savar in dugi otok. Each side of the family has property in their respective islands and now we want to make sure it stays in the family. We arent sure how to do this. Most of the land is land that isn't in proven records, just land that has been with them forever. Is there a way to ensure that these properties can stay with the family after the eventual passing of my grandparents?
#10 BORIS | January 10, 2011
you would have to initiate inheritance proceeding in Pula, before notary public
I would say that the will would be fine, but one should see it before can give any precise info. For croatian inheritance law it is well enough to be written by hand and signed at the end.
#11 CHRIS | June 30, 2011
I hate to admit this ...but my aunt is suing me, for proprty that has already been put in my name. My grandmother who is still living, thank god, placed multiple properties on my name. over 50 years ago one of the houses belong to her aunt, she is declaring that since her family once owned it, she still has legal rights. Please someone let me know if she has chance. I dont believe she could possibly, but I am not sure of the laws in Croatia, as for they can be different than the states. Please tell me if you know the laws and if so, please explain if there is a way i can proceed with out a lawyer..Thanks
#12 ANTON HUNJADI | October 05, 2011
Comment to Chris!
Maybe I can help you with your inheritance, pls contact me on my e-mail: email@example.com.
#13 NADA BESIR | October 12, 2011
My Grandmother passed 2 years ago and left my sister and I a portion of property in a little town just outside of Sibenik. That property was left to her and her 6 other siblings by her mother in the year 2000. They were all living in Australia at the time and one of her brothers was made executor of the will. The will has to date not been executed and is currently causing problems for my grandmothers will. I would like to have the property divided properly but we are afraid that one of her brothers has taken the land in his name and illegally sold some of the land. I am trying to rally my mum's uncles together to get this sorted but am concerned there is not much we can do from Australia and need to deal with the matter locally.
Could anyone please advise - it would be much appreciated.
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