JT Law Sydney offices (in 2010)
Contrary to what applies in Australia, in Greece the freedom each person enjoys regarding the disposition of his/her estate is subject to significant restrictions regarding certain family members, such as his or her children, spouse and parents. According to the applicable Greek laws, a part of each decedent's estate must be distributed to the above relatives. This part is called "nomimi moira" or "minimum forced inheritance share" in Greece; this equals half of the inheritance share each of the above relatives would be entitled to, if the decedent died intestate (i.e. without leaving a will). Any contributions, however, that the decedent may have given to each of the above heirs while living, are counted against the minimum forced inheritance share in Greece that the heir will be entitled to upon the decedent's death (for instance, if the decedent, while still leaving, gifted to one of his children a property, the value of this property counts towards the percentage of the minimum forced inheritance share in Greece that this child is entitled to from his parent's inheritance).
The testator can disinherit his relative (child, parent ,or spouse) only under very limited circumstances, such as: when the relative has committed a gravely unjust act against the testator, or has lived his life unethically, or in the case of a spouse, if a valid reason for divorce existed for which the inheriting spouse was liable. In the event that the testator disinherits one of the above relatives in his will (or bequeaths to that relative a portion of his estate that is less than the provided minimum forced inheritance share), then that heir is entitled to participate in the remaining inheritance and claim the percentage missing (to complete his minimum forced inheritance share) or the entire minimum forced inheritance share (when he has been entirely disinherited). Furthermore, in the event that the existing inheritance at the time of the testator's death is not sufficient to cover the minimum forced inheritance share in Greece, the person entitled to that share has the right to seek the revocation and/or rescission of any gifts that the testator may have given while living, in order for the heir to be satisfied from the subjects of those gifts.
The minimum forced inheritance share provisions in Greece apply in the following two cases:
Α) When there is a will: in the event that the relatives (children, spouse and parents) would inherit, had the testator died intestate, and do not inherit by virtue of the will (or inherit less than the minimum forced share) and
Β) Intestate: when the existing inheritance does not suffice to cover the minimum forced share, due to conveyances the decedent made while living or due to restrictions that have been placed by virtue of a will.
It is important to understand that the minimum forced inheritance share right in Greece only exists when those entitled to it would inherit, if notwill exists. Therefore, for instance, the parents of the decedent do not have a claim to a minimum forced inheritance share in Greece, if the decedent had a wife and children (because if no will existed, only the wife and children would inherit, and not the parents that are only called to inherit if no children exist). Grandchildren, for instance, only have a minimum forced inheritance share claim if their parents are disqualified from inheriting. Furthermore, for a decedent who was survived by three children and a spouse, the following apply: the intestate share of each child is ¼ of the estate, and the minimum forced share 1/8 of the estate.
Finally, regarding the legal consequences of not bequeathing the minimum forced inheritance share in the event of a will, it must be noted that this constitutes the will null and void as far as the minimum forced share is concerned. This is an absolute nullity that can be raised by anyone and can even be examined sua sponte by the Court. The person entitled to the minimum forced inheritance share formally obtains the inherited share (in a final manner) by accepting the inheritance and finally looses it by denouncing it.