The legal treatment of joint bank accounts for inheritance law purposes under Greek law
The joint bank account is an account with several joint beneficiaries who retain some degree of autonomy so that each of them can withdraw and deposit monies themselves, without the consent of the other joint beneficiary.
Under Articles 2 and 3 of Law 5638/1932, Law 2961/2001, Law 117 of the Law introducing the Hellenic Civil Code and Article 488 of the Hellenic Civil Code, when one of the joint beneficiaries of the joint bank account passes away, the amount remaining is not inherited by the heirs of the deceased but goes to the joint beneficiary of the joint account, without any inheritance tax being imposed. However, if the internal relationship between the joint beneficiaries of the joint account (or to put it different, if the reason for the testator placed his money in the joint bank account) is an inter vivos donation or a donation mortis causa, the provisions on the lawful portion will apply where such portion has been affected (Article 2035 of the Hellenic Civil Code).
For example: Assume that K has a car, a property and a joint bank account No. 2 with € 50,000 in it together with his partner, while at the time of his death his sole heir was his son C. Article 1846 of the Hellenic Civil Code on ipso jure acquisition applies to the car. Articles 1198-1199 and 1193 of the Hellenic Civil Code on transcription of acceptance of inheritance, etc. apply to the property. However, the deposits in joint bank account No. 2 will automatically pass to the joint beneficiary, K, as a non-taxable non-inheritance relationship, unless K had deposited the monies in the bank account by way of donation, which donation affects the lawful portion to which C is entitled. These comments only apply to joint accounts marked 2 which insinuates that the term in Article 2 had been added to the joint account (“These deposits may be supplemented by the term that upon the death of any of the beneficiaries the deposit shall automatically devolve to the others right down to the last of them. In this case, the deposit passes to them free of any inheritance tax or other duties. On the contrary, this exemption does not extend to the heirs of the last remaining beneficiary”).
(see Law 5638/1932 read in conjunction with Article 117 of the Law introducing the Hellenic Civil Code, but not Article 488 of the Hellenic Civil Code).
On the contrary, where the joint bank account has not been opened under the term in Article 2, if the heirs can prove the level of amounts deposited by the testator (and not his joint beneficiary) in the joint account, they will have a right of recourse against the joint beneficiary based on the internal relationship which tied the testator to the joint beneficiary (and not due to an inheritance right over the joint account which does not exist). For example, if they can prove that of the € 50,000, € 30,000 was placed in the joint account by K (and not by his partner) as a contribution to the company, then they can claim the relevant amount on the basis of the internal legal relationship within the company.
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