INHERITANCE LAW – PRACTICAL TIPPS
The legacy of a decadent with no heirs belongs to the community i.e. the town determined by the Inheritance Law, which are then put in an equal position as decadent’s heirs.
Foreigners are, as heirs, equal with Croatian citizens, which means that they inherit equally as Croatian citizens.
When one is deceased, his legacy can be inherited according to his/her will or to the law. If the deceased left no will, his children and his spouse shall inherit him, all in equal parts. Children born outside marriage and their descendants have equal inheritance rights as children born during marriage and their descendants. Inheritance rights between spouses cease with the separation and the annulment of marriage. Cohabitation is, regarding inheritance, equated with marriage if this cohabitation represents a life union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman that lasts at least 3 years or less if a mutual child is born within this union.
In Croatia, most citizens either make a will or they leave their legacy to be divided according to the law. The will is valid if the decadent was at least 16 years old when he/she made the will and if he/she has had legal capacity. The provisions of the will need to be interpreted according to the decadent’s real intention.
Decadents often forget that they are not authorized to divide their entire property in their will, since; in this case, forced heirs still get ½ of the legacy they would have inherited according to the law. Forced heirs are primarily decadent’s children and his spouse.
Therefore, if decadents want to entirely exclude some close relatives from inheritance or they simply want to divide their legacy differently than it should be divided according to the law, and yet they want to be sure that there will be no unnecessary legal disputes after their death, it is recommended that they enter into one of the inheritance agreements like, for example, cession and distribution of legacy or lifelong support agreement.
When these agreements are entered into, the decadent has no property at the time of the inheritance hearing, since his/her property is already divided according to these agreements.
The agreement rarely used in practice, and yet the best way to divide ones legacy, is cession and distribution of legacy. When this agreement is signed, no legal disputes can emerge after decadent is deceased, since all forced heirs have signed this agreement. The agreements on cession and distribution of legacy are valid only if all forced heirs; the spouse, the children and their descendants have agreed to it.
Lifelong support agreement is often in Croatia misused since the supporters often don’t take care of the dependants and yet they receive in return, usually, a real estate. Unrelated persons usually profit from this agreement and many legal disputes emerge between them and decadent’s relatives after the decadent is deceased.
Therefore it is recommended to the elderly to divide their legacy as they want, with an agreement signed during their life. It would be best to divide it with the cession and distribution of legacy. It is important to mention that this agreement needs to be signed while the decadent still has legal capacity. It is also possible to put into this agreement a right to lifelong residence in favor of the decadent as well as the prohibition to sell or to charge the real estate. In this way the decadent still has control over the property, and on the other hand he/she has transferred it to third persons according to his real intention.