Croatian inheritance law at the last will

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The inheritance law in the Republic of Croatia is governed by the Law of inheritance. In the case of death, the decendent’s estate can be divided according to a will or the law. Heirs often ask what the estate (decedent’s estate) is exactly. In order to avoid ambiguity and disputes, this article presents an overview of the Croatian inheritance law at the last will.

According to the Law of inheritance, anyone can make a will with which he leaves his entire property (or only his share) to someone. According to Croatian inheritance law, a personal testament, a public testament or a written testament can be done in front of two witnesses. Each will can be challenged, especially if a testator has a disposable, non-dutiful share (if the compulsory portion of inheritance is violated). The testament content reduced to the permitted amount can be claimed within three years of the opening of the will.

Likewise, any donation made by the testator to an heir can be challenged. The refund of the donation can be claimed within three years from the death of the testator, or from the date of entering of the decision into legal force, with which the testator was declared dead.

Dispositions made in the event of death, as well as donations by the testator, often result in heirs claiming their rights, primarily the right to the compulsory portion, through the court. Numerous disputes can be prevented with a contract. If the testator wants to distribute the property differently than it is determined by the law, and on the other hand wants to make sure that after his death no unnecessary legal proceedings arise, it is recommendable to make a contract like e.g. a contract for the assignment and distribution of property. In this case, the testator no longer owns property at the time of death because these contracts already distribute the property.

Such a contract is the best way to regulate property issues that would otherwise arise after death. If such a contract has been concluded, there can be no inheritance disputes after death because all compulsory heirs have already signed this contract. The assignment and distribution of the property (in most cases these are real estate) is only valid if the spouse, all children and all other descendants of the testator, who are legal heirs, agree with it. Therefore, it is recommended that elderly persons divide their assets according to their wishes during their lifetime by contracts, and preferably by a contract for the assignment and distribution of property. However, it must be pointed out that such a contract must be concluded while the person is still completely capable of judgment. In this way, the elderly person retains control of the property and, on the other hand, has transfered it to a third person  safe and appropriate to his/hers wishes.

In addition, it is recommended that testators preserve their rights by burdening the real estate. As a kind of burden, a usufructuary right in favor of the testator can be established so that he/she can use the property until his death without restriction. At the same time it is also possible to establish a forbiddance on the sale and encumbrance of the property.

The execution of this contract in relation to real estate is governed not only by the Law of inheritance but also by the Law of obligations and the Law on the land registry. It is therefore recommended that both testator and heirs seek advice from a lawyer.