INHERITANCE PROCEEDINGS IN CROATIA
The inheritance proceeding is non-contentious proceeding which shall be instituted following the death of a natural person, after court receives the death certificate of the testator or an equivalent document. In inheritance proceedings are determined the heirs, the heritage, and the rights that belong to certain heir or other persons.
Notaries Public acting as Municipal courts commissioners are competent for running the inheritance proceedings. The court, conducting inheritances proceedings to the notary public, supervises its work, and due to important reasons can held the proceeding itself. The territorial jurisdiction to distribute the heritage is determined by the testator’s permanent, and alternatively, temporary residence at the time of the death, the place where the property is located, or where the testator is entered in the register of citizens.
Persons who possess the will shall immediately, after the testator’s death, delivered it to the nearest Municipal court, or inform the court of any knowledge of the existence of the will, regardless of whether the will is valid or how many wills there is. The court shall, before conducting inheritance proceedings, request information about the existence of the will from the Croatian register of wills. It’s important to note that the will is extremely formal statement of the last will. For the validity of the will it’s crucial that it’s made in accordance with the legally prescribed ways.
The central part of the inheritance proceedings is the hearing. On the hearing are invited interested parties, such as potential heirs, legatees, executor and others.
Heirs at the hearing give statement of inheritance, accepting the inheritance, renouncing the inheritance or assigning an accepted inheritance to another heir. Once given, statement of inheritance is irrevocable. If a heir renounce the inheritance, his part is distributed to the other heirs in equal parts, and if there are no heirs of the same inheritance line, the inheritance is assigned to heirs of the next degree. The heir of the inheritance can also renounce the inheritance only on his own behalf, allowing his own heirs – typically children – to accept the inheritance from the testator. If the heir wants to assign his share to another, a specific coheir, he should first accept the inheritance, and then assign it to another coheir. If the heir doesn’t give a statement of inheritance, it is considered that he wants to be the heir. Given statement of inheritance does not apply in relation to afterwards found property.
The heir who accepted the inheritance, shall be responsible for the debts of the testator till the value of inherited. The creditors have the right to claim for payment of the entire heir’s property, not only of inherited property, while the court look after that the value of inherited is not exceeded, by the objection of the heir. This also applies when the heir accept the inheritance only to assign his share to another heir. Creditors who make probable the existence of its claims and risk for debt settlement in the case when the heritage is given to heir, may require the separation of heritage of heir’s property within 3 months of the testator’s death. But in this case, creditors have the right to be settled only from inherited property, but not from entire heir’s property.
An inheritance dispute ends with the inheritance decision. Against the decision of the notary public it’s allowed to complain within 8 days of the delivery of the decision and the against the decision of the court, may be appealed within 15 days of the delivery. However, the question is: “What if some of the interested parties did not participate in the inheritance proceedings, because she was not invited?”. In this case, such a person is not bound by the legal validity of the inheritance decision and has the right in a lawsuit challenge the veracity of inheritance decision, against the person in whose favor it’s issued.
If among the parties become disputable in the inheritance proceedings a facts that determine some of their rights, the court shall instruct the parties to resolve the matter in lawsuit or administrative proceedings. In lawsuit is instructed the party whose right court consider less likely. Disputable might for example be indicated the right to separation of marital property from the inheritance, the validity of the will, the size of inheritance and other. If a person is instructed in the lawsuit, the same is filed within 30 days and the court is notified, the inheritance proceedings shall be put on hold till the final completion of this lawsuit.
Interested persons may, when circumstances demand special caution, suggest that during the inheritance proceedings property is ensured handing it over for safekeeping to trusted person, a court or a notary public, or in some other suitable way. List and insurance of the property, ex officio, will order the court when the heirs are unknown or when they’re not able to manage matters of inheritance.
It is important to note that to the testator who died from 17 August 2015. further, and had any connection with another Member State of the EU, applies Regulation on inheritance no. 650/2012, which among other things regulates jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions in inheritance matters. The Regulation introduces an European certificate of inheritance which serves to prove the status of the heir in other EU member states, with a validity period of 6 months.
According to the Regulation, courts of the EU Member States in which the testator had residence at the time of death or a country with which the testator had the closest connection are competent to conduct inheritance proceedings. The competent court is authorized to discuss the entire heritage, and thus abrogated the earlier exclusive jurisdiction of Croatian courts to discuss the inheritance consisting of real estate on the Croatian territory. In the process, depending on the particular case, can be applied the law of a different Member States, and for the testator there’s possibility to determinate in the will applicable law of the State of which he is a national.