- How can I inherit assets or money?
There are two major types of inheritance: (1) inheritance through a will/testament and (2) legal inheritance, which you can receive if you are a relative if the deceased and he did not prepare a special testament.
- When does the Romanian inheritance law apply?
For a Romanian citizen who used to live in Romania, things are very simple, because Romanian law will always apply to his inheritance.
However, if we have a foreigner who maybe lived in multiple countries over the course of his life, things can get more complicated. In this case, we must check where the person had his last residence. If he lived in Romania before his death, even if he was a foreign citizen, the Romanian law will apply to his will. If he lived in another country, irrespective of his citizenship, that country’s law may apply.
If the person has traveled to multiple countries before their death, we will take into consideration his main residency – the place where he lived the most, maybe had assets, a home, family, a job. In all cases, he must have a short-term or long-term stay certificate issued by the Romanian authorities to apply Romanian inheritance law. If he only had a tourist or employment visa and never got his certificate (CNP), the Romanian inheritance law will not apply to him and his relatives cannot go to a Romanian notary or in court to obtain their share of the assets.
- Are there any particular rules for foreigners?
No, foreigners are treated equally as Romanian citizens. Both Romanian and foreign citizens are governed by the Romanian rules of legal and testamentary inheritance, with respect to property located in Romania.
- Are there any inheritance taxes?
No, there is no tax if the descendants start the succession procedure within 2 years from the day the deceased passed away. If they do it later, the tax is 1% from the value of inheritance.
Also, the notary can in any case request their standard notary fess for assisting the descendants in the inheritance procedure.
- How can I make a testament?
Testaments can be either made at the notary or written entirely by hand, in which case a notary is not necessary.
The handwritten testament must be entirely written by hand, dated and signed by the testator himself. Before its execution, the testament must be brought in front of a notary, in order to be marked as unchanged. After that, any relative of the deceased can receive copies of the testament.
The notarized testament must be authenticated before the deceased passed away by a public notary or other person invested with public authority by the state. Having a testament made at the notary is the best way to go, because it is safer and the document cannot be stolen, tempered with or its content be questionable, because the notary itself offers assistance with drafting the will. The notary will keep the original signed testament in his records and give the testator an authorized counter copy.
- Does a testament only refer to asset distribution?
No, a testament can also contain the deceased’s least will on other matters, as well. For example, the person can ask for certain arrangements upon his death, like choosing cremation over burial or a certain place to be buried.
The deceased can also arrange for a person to be the executor of the will, e.g. a close friend he trusts or even a lawyer. Moreover, he can set certain conditions for the beneficiaries of his will, e.g. the surviving spouse cannot sell the house for a certain period of time or the son must continue his studies if he wants to obtain a certain amount of money or property.
- What happens if I have no descendants?
If there are no inheritors, the money and assets will be collected by the Romanian state. The same situation occurs if the descendants didn’t accept the inheritance in the legal term of one year.
- How much could my spouse and children inherit from me?
If there is no testament, the survival spouse and children will receive their legal inheritance quota. That is ¼ of the assets for the spouse and ¾ for the child or children. The children will divide the ¾ quota equally among themselves.
Even if the deceased and their spouse were in a divorce trial or legal separation before the deceased passed away, the spouse is still legally considered wife or husband and receive their legal quota of the inheritance. However, if a divorce court decision was already issued before the deceased passed away, their wife is no longer a successor.
- I am a descendant or beneficiary in the testament, what do I do?
The descendants can ask for their part of the inheritance either at the notary public or in court.
The notary must have its office in the district or city where the deceased has his last legal residence. If the deceased did not have his last residence in Romania, the inheritance procedure shall be carried out at a notary in the district where the deceased had his most important property, e.g. his house or car.
If the successors do not agree upon the distribution of assets, they must get a special statement thereof from the notary and go to court. The competent court is the one from the deceased’s last residency. Descendants usually resort to court action when they fight over the inheritance, e.g. they do not agree to a donation or a legacy left by the deceased.
- What happens to the assets that cannot be shared?
Money can be easily shared between successors, but when we have assets such as a house or car, there are different options. The successors can either divide the assets among themselves and pay for the difference in value, or the assets can be sold and the money divided between the inheritors in their legal quotas.
Also, family objects can only be shared between successors by mutual consent. One cannot file a lawsuit to share assets that are family memories, like family pictures, documents attesting the family’s history or other objects of great moral value. It is questionable whether family jewels fall into that category or not – if they are very expensive, it might be considered that their financial value is greater than the mere protection of family legacy.
- I don’t want to be an inheritor, what do I do?
You can choose to waive your rights to an inheritance by making a declaration at the notary public or even at the Romanian embassy or consulate, if you live abroad.
This usually happens if you want nothing to do with the inheritance, e.g. the assets are in another country or you just don’t want to be bothered with the formalities. Moreover, the inheritance is composed not only of money and assets, but also of credit and liabilities.
For example, the house of the deceased could have a heavy mortgage on it or the deceased may owe big amounts of money to various people. In this case, you should refuse the inheritance, or else you might end up paying for the credit yourself. You cannot accept the inheritance in part, by getting only the assets, not also the liabilities.
- How can a lawyer help me?
Whatever our age or health condition, it is advisable to think quite early about drawing up a will, in order to protect our loved ones or any other beneficiary to the testament (such as an NGO or even close friends, who are not actual relatives).
In this respect, a lawyer can offer assistance in presenting your legal rights and obligations regarding the inheritance, as well as assisting the testator with drawing up a solid will, that can later be notarized. Moreover, any of us can become legal successors at some point, either with or without our will. In this case, we should know all the options available and make sure that our rights are protected.
Ruxandra Visoiu – Managing Partner