Inheritance Law in Turkey: Legal Guidance for Foreigners

The Will and Inheritance of Property in Turkey

What is Inheritance Law in Turkey and How Does It Work?

Inheritance law in Turkey is primarily governed by the Turkish Civil Code and involves a set of rules that dictate how the property of the deceased is distributed among heirs. If a person dies without leaving a will, the inheritance is distributed according to statutory shares established by law. The spouse, children, and other relatives of the deceased are the primary legal heirs. If there are no legal heirs, the state claims the estate. Turkish law also includes provisions for a "reserved portion" which restricts a testator's freedom to distribute their estate entirely by will, ensuring certain relatives receive a minimum share.

The process of claiming an inheritance involves several steps. Initially, an application for the distribution of the inheritance is submitted to a court, accompanied by the payment of related fees. A certificate of inheritance is then obtained, which is crucial for executing further legal actions concerning the estate. The court plays a central role in managing the proceedings, including the determination and distribution of the deceased's assets among the heirs. This process emphasizes the importance of legal assistance to navigate the complexities of inheritance laws and ensure the rights of all parties are respected.

Types of Inheritance in Turkey

In Turkey, inheritance law categorizes the property and assets of a deceased person into different types, and distributes them according to specific legal heirs and shares:

Financial Inheritance: This includes bank balances, cash found with the deceased, and other monetary assets.

Property: Covers real estate like homes, cars, land, as well as businesses directly owned by the deceased.

Receivables: These are unpaid debts and taxes owed to the deceased.

Can Foreigners Inherit Property in Turkey?

Yes, foreigners can inherit property in Turkey. Turkish inheritance law applies the principle of "location of immovable property," which means the inheritance of real estate is governed by Turkish laws regardless of the deceased's nationality. For movable properties, however, the law of the deceased's nationality may apply unless the property is specifically covered under a different legal agreement or will.

Relatives can inherit property in Turkey based on an official will made either in Turkey or another country that is part of the 1961 Hague Convention. If the will is made abroad, it must be apostilled, certified at a Turkish notary office, and comply with the format required by the Civil Code of Turkey.

Who Inherits Property in Turkey?

In Turkey, the inheritance of real estate is strictly regulated by the Civil Code, which ensures that the closest relatives of the deceased are entitled to a specific portion of the estate, even in the presence of a will. The testator has the freedom to include anyone in the will, but it is vital to ensure that the document is drafted correctly, adhering to all the legal norms of Turkey. 

Both individuals and legal entities can serve as heirs. However, only individuals are granted the rights of a testator. The testator must be legally competent at the time the will is made; otherwise, the will has no legal validity.

If the property remains unclaimed, it transfers to the state's management for a period ranging from 5 to 15 years, after which it becomes state property.

!!! Russian citizens cannot automatically inherit real estate in Turkey. In the absence of a will, the property is auctioned, with a preference given to relatives who are co-owners.

Division of an inheritance in TurkeyHow is Inheritance Divided?

The process follows key principles to ensure that the property is divided fairly according to legal standards:

  • Children receive 50% of the legally designated portion of the estate.
  • The spouse receives 25%, regardless of whether there are children.
  • Parents inherit the remaining 25%.

Heirs under the law and by will can also include children who were conceived but not yet born during the lifetime of the property owner. 

In cases where there is no will, which must be notarized, inheritance follows a specified order:

  • If the decedent has both a spouse and children, the spouse receives 25% of the estate, and the remaining 75% is divided equally among the children.
  • If there is no spouse, the estate is divided equally among the children.
  • If there are no children, the spouse receives 50% of the estate, and the parents receive the remaining 50%.
  • In the absence of children, a spouse, or parents, the property is inherited by other relatives up to the fourth degree of kinship.
  • Unlike foster children, foster guardians do not have any rights to inheritance.

The determination of kinship degrees and the distribution of shares are carried out by Turkish courts using specific tables. Matters of inheritance involving foreigners are adjudicated by the magistrate's court and the court of first instance.

What Can Cause You to Lose Your Inheritance?

In some cases, claimants to an inheritance may be denied their share. The reasons for disqualifying heirs from inheriting are regulated by the Civil Code and must be officially proven and recorded by a court. Disqualification can occur for reasons such as:

  • If the beneficiary planned or committed a crime against the testator or other heirs.
  • If there were proven illegal actions aimed at obstructing the drafting of a will.
  • If the testator's parents were deprived of parental rights at the time the will was declared.
  • If the marriage is deemed invalid.
  • If the heir has failed to fulfill any conditions outlined in the Turkish Civil Code.

Heirs have the option to renounce their inheritance within three months of the official notification if the estate includes debts.

Procedures for Claiming Inheritance in Turkey

To inherit real estate in Turkey, an heir must first obtain an apostilled document that proves their relationship with the deceased. This document is typically issued by a court or a department of population in the heir's home country.

Furthermore, the heir should consult a lawyer and obtain a court letter. This letter must then be registered at the court where the property is located, and following the legal proceedings, a certificate granting the inheritance rights is issued. 

The final step involves transferring this document and the TAPU (title deed) to the Land Registry Office, officially making the heir a legal owner of the Turkish property.

Required Documents for the Transfer of Property to Heirs

For the property transfer to the heirs, the following documents need to be submitted: 

  • Certified and Turkish-translated proof of kinship and certificate of inheritance
  • Turkish tax numbers
  • a valid passport
  • personal photos

Inheritance Tax in Turkey

How Much is Inheritance Tax in Turkey?

In Turkey, when transferring inheritance of real estate, heirs are required to pay inheritance tax. This applies to both foreigners and Turkish citizens, with the same tax obligations. The payment is spread over a period of three years, with two payments due each year—in May and November.

The tax rates vary depending on the value of the property:

  • For the first 1,100,000 TL: 1%
  • For the next 2,600,000 TL: 3%
  • For the next 5,500,000 TL: 5%
  • For the next 10,900,000 TL: 7%
  • For any amount exceeding 20,100,000 TL: 10%

Can You Make a Will in Turkey as a Foreigner?

Any individual over 15 years old with a sound mind and memory can be the testator of real estate in Turkey.

The process for drafting a will for foreigners follows these steps:

  • Drafting the document at the Turkish lawyer's office in compliance with local laws.
  • Registering the will at the notary office. A translator and two witnesses, who must be Turkish citizens, must be present at the meeting.
  • The will is prepared in three copies: one for the owner, one for the notary, and one for the Ministry of Housing. 
  • The will is recorded in the Notary Service of Turkey and the Turkish embassy in the testator's country. Embassy personnel are obligated to inform the local civil registry office about the document.

Foreign citizens have the option to revoke a will made according to the rules, for instance, if they wish to make changes or updates. 

To draft a will, the following documents are required:

  • Original and translated copy of the passport into Turkish.
  • Tax identification number (TIN) of the property owner.
  • Copy of the title deed (TAPU).
  • Copies of heirs' passports translated into Turkish.
  • Three photographs of the testator.
  • Hospital statement confirming the mental health of the testator.

How Do Wills Work in Turkey?How Do Wills Work in Turkey?

In Turkey, individuals can draft a will to specify the distribution of their assets after death, similar to practices in many countries worldwide. According to the Turkish Civil Code, the will must adhere to Turkish law to be recognized legally. For a will to be valid, the testator must be over fifteen years old and possess full mental capacity. 

There are three types of wills recognized in Turkey:

  • Formal Will: Prepared and notarized by officials in a notary office in Turkey.
  • Handwritten Will: Personally written by the testator, including a complete date and the testator’s signature.
  • Parol Will: Created under extraordinary circumstances such as war or serious illness, where the testator orally communicates their wishes to two witnesses, asking them to document the will.

A will can be altered, revoked, or rewritten by the testator at any time before death, with only the latest version being considered valid.

What Happens if a Foreigner Dies in Turkey?

When a foreign national passes away and leaves assets in Turkey, the heirs must first obtain a certificate of inheritance. This involves submitting a petition in the local court where the property of the deceased is located, regardless of whether the deceased had assets or not. 

The division of the estate, particularly immovable property, is governed by Turkish law, which stipulates specific shares for heirs. In contrast, for movable assets like money in banks or valuables in safety deposit boxes, the laws of the deceased's nationality are applied.

Once the heirs are aware of all the deceased's assets, they can start the legal transfer procedures immediately after obtaining the inheritance certificate. This process includes obtaining an inheritance certificate and settling any inheritance taxes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Inheritance Law in Turkey

Q: What is the certificate of inheritance in Turkey?
The Certificate of Inheritance in Turkey is a legal document that proves the rightful heirs of a deceased person's estate. It is required to legally transfer ownership of the deceased’s assets to their heirs. This certificate can be issued by the Turkish courts.

Q: How do you receive inherited money?
For movable assets such as cars or bank funds located in Turkey, the inheritance laws of the deceased's nationality are applied. Even if a lawsuit is filed in Turkey by the legal heirs of a deceased foreign national, the movable assets in the estate are determined by the law of the deceased's country of citizenship, and the case is handled according to that country's laws. To transfer movable inheritance property and rights to legal heirs, a certificate of inheritance obtained in Turkish courts is sufficient. 

To close a deceased person's bank accounts and withdraw the funds, heirs must first obtain a certificate of inheritance. They also need an official bank statement of account balances at the date of death for tax reporting. After paying the required inheritance tax and receiving a clearance letter from the tax office, the heirs can either personally or through representatives withdraw the funds and close the accounts. If not all heirs can be present, a court may need to convert the joint ownership into individual shares.

Q: What happens to real estate estate if there are no living relatives?
If heirs do not claim their rights to real estate, the property is managed by the state for a period between 5 and 15 years. After this timeframe, the property is permanently transferred to state ownership.

Q: How to claim an inheritance in Turkey?
To inherit real estate in Turkey, an heir must first secure an apostilled document confirming their relation to the deceased. They should then consult a lawyer to obtain a court letter, which is registered at the court where the property is located. After legal proceedings, a certificate granting inheritance rights is issued. The final step is to transfer this document along with the TAPU (title deed) to the Land Registry Office to officially become the property's legal owner.

Q: Do I need to report inheritance money?
Yes, in Turkey, if you receive an inheritance, including money, it must be reported and is subject to inheritance tax.

Q: Does inheritance tax include foreigners in Turkey?
Yes, inheritance tax applies to both foreigners and Turkish citizens, with the same tax obligations.