Are you a heir of a relative who owned movable or immovable property, vehicles, companies or bank accounts in Bulgaria during their life? This article is a guide to what the heirs of a foreign national who owned assets in Bulgaria can get. First of all, it should be noted that the heir may have different heirs living in different countries. The latter would complicate the legal case, but in no way excludes the rights of heirs who do not live in Bulgaria or have nothing to do with Bulgaria at all.
In the most common case, foreign nationals have settled in Bulgaria (acquired citizenship or permanent or long term residence) and acquired property. However, it is possible that a Bulgarian citizen was born in Bulgaria and acquired certain assets and then emigrated from Bulgaria to a foreign country where he or she died. In the latter case, he or she may have established a family abroad which is also entitled to an inheritance share of the properties located in Bulgaria. It should be borne in mind that the heir may not have had any property at the date of leaving Bulgaria, but while living abroad his relatives in Bulgaria may have died and he may have inherited property in Bulgaria – which property his heirs abroad will be entitled to inherit after his death.
The first property inquiry that a Bulgarian lawyer can help you with is that of the real estate owned by the heir in Bulgaria. Real estates can be of any type – land, house, office, apartment, commercial premises – and be owned either personally by the heir, or by his company, or by a nominee. A competent attorney can do a complete and comprehensive search so that no property is left out and heirs can claim the full amount of their share of the inheritance.
A deceased person’s company in Bulgaria can also be inherited. There are various options here, but the 2 main ones are either for the heirs to take the place of the deceased in the company or to claim to be paid the value of their liquidation share, i.e. a cash equivalent corresponding to the market value of the company and the inheritance share. It is important to note that companies in Bulgaria may own real estates and other movable assets of significant value, so verification by a competent lawyer in the Bulgarian Commercial Register, and if necessary in other registers, is recommended.
Another way in which the heirs can be assisted is by the discovery of a will in Bulgaria which the heir may have left during his or her life. If there is no will, the heirs inherit as specified by the law. However, if there is a will for the deceased person’s property in Bulgaria, the order of heirs and their shares may undergo a serious change. It is therefore advisable to make enquiries as to whether the heir left a Bulgarian will. If there is one, it may be a notarial or a handwritten will. Notaries in Bulgaria have the function of opening and declaring wills after the death of the testator in Bulgaria, and a lawyer with a power of attorney can represent the heirs in such a procedure so that they do not have to come to Bulgaria at all if they do not wish to.
The procedure for discovering the inheritance of a deceased heir in Bulgaria can start with checks on the deceased’s properties. Bulgarian lawyers can be particularly helpful by doing a full real estate research in all possible sources of information, then providing all available information to the heirs abroad. This first stage can be carried out remotely without the need for the relatives abroad to sign a power of attorney or visit Bulgaria.
The second stage, after the discovery of real estate, companies, bank accounts or other assets in Bulgaria, is the registration of the heirs from abroad as legal heirs and the taking of actions aimed at their recognition as heirs and the transfer in their name of part or all of the property owned by the heir. If, for example, the heir was the owner of real estates in Bulgaria, notarial deeds of title may be issued to the heirs in which their names appear, after which they will be free to dispose of or sell the property. If companies are inherited, the heirs can be listed as partners or shareholders in the companies, and can then sell the companies or their shares or close them down by cashing in the available assets and profits. Bank account balances can be directly transferred to foreign bank accounts. This second stage requires either the presence of the heirs in Bulgaria or that they sign a power of attorney for a Bulgarian lawyer to carry out all the necessary procedures. The heirs may need to submit a number of documents to have their heir status settled, e.g. death certificate, marriage certificate, certificate of heirs, birth certificate, etc.