Wills and Probate in Bulgaria

According to the Bulgarian legislation there are two possible forms of inheritance – by law and by will. The Bulgarian Inheritance act is the one that explicitly determines the heirs at law, but it does not specify in detail the heirs by will.

The will can be two types – notarized or handwritten will.

Regardless of its type, a will takes effect after the death of the person who made it. It applies only to property, which that person owned at the time of his death.

Any person who has reached the age of 18, is not placed under full incapacity due to dementia and is able to act reasonably may dispose of his property after his death by will.

Two or more persons may not bequeath by the same act either for the benefit of each other or for the benefit of third parties.

Heirs by will can be either some of the legal heirs themselves, or third parties outside this circle.

By will can inherit individuals, legal entities as well as the state. By will can also inherit a child who was conceived on the date of the testator’s death and was born able to live.

Legal entities can inherit only by will. They must have been established at the time of the opening of the inheritance and not be terminated.

The testator (the one who makes the will) is free to dispose of the entire part of his assets. He may also bequeath individual parts of them to benefit of one or more persons, determining the exact heirs.

Wills that relate to all or a part of the entire property (all movable and immovable assets) of the testator are called general wills and give the status of heir to the person in whose benefit they were made. Wills that relate to certain property are called covenants..

The wills could be conditional or with some burdens. However, in both cases, they must be legal.

The Inheritance Act, in turn, protects the closest heirs at law by assigning them a reserved part of the testator’s property. Only this part of the property, which is outside of the  the reserved part of the descendants, the parents or the spouse of the deceased can be bequeathed.

The reserved part of the descendants (including the adopted ones), when the heir has not left a spouse, is:

• in case of one child or descendant – 1/2 of the property of the testator;

• for two or more children or descendants – 2/3 of the property of the testator.

The preserved part of the parents or only of the survivor is 1/3.

The reserved part of the spouse is 1/2 when inherits alone, and 1/3 when the heir has also left parents. When the heir has left descendants and a spouse, the reserved part of the spouse is equal to the reserved part of each child. In these cases the available part for one child is equal to 1/3, for two children it is equal to 1/4, and for three and more children it is equal to 1/6 of the inheritance.

Any property other than these reserved parts may be freely disposed of by the testator after his death by a notarial or personal will. If a reserved part is damaged in whole or in part, an heir entitled to a reserved part who cannot receive the full amount of that part due to wills or donations may request their reduction to the amount necessary to supplement his reserved part.

The notarial will is made by the notary in the presence of the testator and  two witnesses. This will must be signed by the notary, the witnesses and the testator, the notary drafts it under the dictation of the testator, then reads it, after that the testator signs it. Such will must be registred the registry agency.

The handwritten will must be written entirely by hand in Bulgarian or a foreign language by the testator, dated and signed. It is kept by the testator himself by a third party, a bank, solicitor or by a notary.

As soon as he learns of the testator’s death, the person in whose  possession is the will, must request the will to be announced by a notary.

Anyone interested of the announcement of the will may ask the district judge at the place where the inheritance was opened, to set a deadline for the submission of the will in order for it to be announced by a notary. The notary announces the will by drawing up a special protocol. After the announcement of personal wills, which bequeath the right of ownership or other real right over real estate, they must be registered in the Land Registry Office at the location of the real estate.

The will may be amended or revoked at any time before the death of the testator. The revocation may be explicit – by a new will or by a notary deed, in which the testator expressly declares that he revokes in whole or in part his previous testamentary dispositions. A new will, which does not explicitly cancel the previous one, is canceled by itself.

It is recommended to contact a Wills and Probate specialist if you have properties in Bulgaria, which you demand to bequeath to someone with a will.

Author: Neli Ivanova – Solicitor/ Advocate Partner at Ivanova and Partners Law Firm

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