Differences between wills in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria

July 13, 2016

As listed on our website www.lexsofia.com, preparation and registration of Bulgarian wills is part of our job in the sphere of Inheritance distributions. In our capacity of independent Bulgarian solicitors we use to prepare wills to comply with the interests of the testator best, as well to follow the requirements of the local Inheritance legislation. During our legal practice we have prepared and registered many Bulgarian wills for foreign clients (British property owners) who want to manage their assets and personal possessions after death and we’ve reached the conclusion that there are important differences between the legal regimes related to wills in the United Kingdom and in Bulgaria. We will try to outline the basic implications of preparing will in the UK and Bulgaria.

The first important issue comes from the fact that the Bulgarian Inheritance Law has one major difference from the UK one, and it can be summarized by the term “reserved part for the heir”m which is similar to the “prior rights” under the Scottish Laws. Namely concrete part of the inheritance pot under the provisions of the Bulgarian Inheritance Act, direct heirs – children, spouse – have the legal right to receive. What this means is that instead of the given option in England to leave everything with a will to any chosen person, here in Bulgaria even if you leave a will (or donate) your assets to a specific person (your relative or not), the other direct relatives will have the right to claim  their “reserved part” from your assets. Or if you put it in another way, under the Commonwealth inheritance regime the ancestor can leave with a personal will the inheritance pot to freely chosen beneficiary and respectively to ignore one or all direct heirs (except in Scotland). English laws allow parents to do whatever they want with their assets, including making a gift to institutions and religious organizations. On the opposite, in Bulgaria you cannot leave with personal will the whole inheritance pot to a specific person, if there are more direct heirs present. It depends on how many are present, if there is a living spouse and whether the assets were purchased during marriage or not. Another difference is that in England & Wales new marriage invalidates previous will.

The second issue relates to the technical side of the will, and namely towards the different legal requirements for its preparation. For example, Bulgarian wills in their nature are recognized by our Laws to be personal and confidential acts of bequest. While in the UK there could be mutual wills or mirror wills (usually signed by spouses), where under the Bulgarian Law this would not be possible. Also in Bulgaria witnesses of personally drafted will are not allowed to be present; a personally drafted will under the Bulgarian Law, where witnesses have signed it too, would not be valid. On the other hand, the Inheritance Law in England requires 2 witnesses who both are over 18, to sign the will too. In addition, in Scotland it is possible to write a will without any witnesses. There are other technical differences too – while in the UK a notary public is not needed to be involved, in Bulgaria there is specific option for the testator to choose to sign specific type of will before notary public and 2 witnesses.

Therefore when relaying solely on a will in order to arrange the ownership relations between the ancestor and the beneficiary of title of Bulgarian assets could lead to some complications, if the will has not been prepared in accordance to the Law. This is so, because the inheritance relations, regardless whether where a personal will has been prepared, as it manages Bulgarian assets, these will be regulated by the Bulgarian law.  And it is highly recommendable, when preparing a will about assets in Bulgaria (real estates, bank accounts, etc.) that is expected to be used here to be prepared by Bulgarian Estate planning lawyer under the provisions of the Bulgarian legislation. This is purely practical issue, because there are cases where the will prepared abroad might and be understood by the local authorities (notary public, Land Register, Tax Offices, etc.), or even not interpreted by these here in the way it was meant to be. Not to mention that the description of the assets in the personal will has to be done very precisely and following the legal provisions, because usually there are legal actions needed to be done in relation to technical title transfer towards the beneficiary, as outlined above. If you consider leaving personal Bulgarian will and need legal advice and assistance for it, we are capable to help you – we provide advice, preparation and registration of personal wills. Contact us on http://lexsofia.com/contacts/

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