Inheritance laws in Turkey are different than U.S. inheritance laws. The laws aim to protect the extended family, considered very important in Turkish culture. The law can be very confusing for foreigners and it is advisable to seek expert advice and write a will according to Turkish rules and regulations.
The Turkish government has passed several laws governing inheritance in Turkey. They are the 2001 Turkish Civil Code, the Code of International Private and Procedural Law and the 1927 Code of Civil Procedure. The Turkish Civil Code establishes equality between men and women in marriage while the 1982 Code of International Private and Procedural Law (amended in 2007) deals with the inheritance rights of foreigners. The Code of Civil Procedure deals with domestic arbitration cases.
Property in Turkey
If a non-Turkish resident dies with assets in Turkey, their assets may be subject to Turkish law. As a general rule, any movable assets such as money in bank accounts, stocks or shares or any property that can be moved will come under the law of their native country. Immovable property in Turkey, such as houses or villas, however, falls under Turkish law.
If the owner of property in Turkey dies without a will, the first statutory heirs are his or her children. If the house was jointly owned, the spouse would retain half of the property while the children would inherit the other half. If there are no children, the parents of the deceased are next in line for inheritance. If the parents are dead, then it goes to the brothers and sisters of the deceased. Only if there are no living relatives of the deceased does the entire property go to the spouse. If there are no heirs or the owner is from a country without reciprocal property rights with Turkey, the estate becomes property of the State.
Writing a Will
It is advisable to write a will if you own property in Turkey and wish for your spouse to receive a bigger slice of the property on your death. Otherwise, they may be forced to sell the property. If the property was not in joint names to begin with, the spouse as next of kin is only entitled to 25% of the property, while 75% will go to the children. If there are no children and the spouse shares the inheritance with the deceased's parents and siblings, he or she is entitled to 50% of the property. This rises to 75% if sharing with the deceased's grandparents. You should make a will in the form specified by the Turkish Civil Code. It must be made in the presence of a Notary Public or a Justice of the Peace, be signed by two witnesses and should comply with certain conditions. A foreign will that does not comply may be invalid. Seek expert advice.
Even when you have an officially executed will in Turkey, however, Turkish law still prohibits the entire property from going to the surviving husband or wife. Turkish law imposes a reserved portion or statutory share for the benefit of the extended family. Any section of a will that ignores this will be overturned in favour of Turkish law. Speak to a specialist solicitor for advice on your specific situation.
Anyone inheriting in Turkey must pay inheritance tax. This tax limit is updated annually and should be checked at the time of inheritance. There are some discounts for spouses and children when taking over a property. The government deducts 109,971 Turkish lira (approximately £45,500) from the tax base of each spouse or child, as of 2010. Inheritance tax for 2010 ranges from 1% for properties under 160,000 Turkish lira to 10% for properties over 2,780,000 Turkish Lira.