2. Sources of law

a. Trust creation and administration

The primary source of trust law is English common law and the colonial regulation CAP193 Trustees, which is based upon the English Trustees Act 1925. Express trusts are private, public or international. In 1992, the International Trusts Law 1992 (ITL) introduced the Cyprus International Trust (CIT). The ITL builds on existing law, modifying it in certain instances.

b. Property, estate and probate

Property ownership is one of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the constitution. Good title of immovable property is based upon the registration of a title as opposed to a contract. Comprehensive property rights, subject to common limitations such as compulsory purchase in the public interest, are derived following registration of title at the District Lands Office. Lodgement at the District Lands Office of any sales contract concerning immovable property, within the statutory period of two months, is a real charge over the seller’s title. Such a charge, when registered before a mortgage, guarantees the holder’s rights against the mortgagee. In addition, concerning land development off a plan, the statutory remedies compelling developers to register purchasers’ titles are available only upon formal completion of the entire works. Until that time purchasers’ only recourse is monetary damages. Concerning co-ownership immovable property has separate statutory rules. However, English legal principles of joint tenancy and joint beneficial tenancy are widely applicable for other kinds of property.

A valid will has to be signed before two witnesses, both of whom must be present simultaneously. The disposable portion of an estate is restricted in varying degrees where a person predeceases his father, mother, spouse or issue. However full testamentary freedom applies in specific cases most notably for those persons who were born, or whose fathers were born in a British Commonwealth state other than Cyprus.

CAP195 Wills and Succession regulates the succession to the estate of all persons domiciled in Cyprus and to the immovable property situated in Cyprus of all persons. Foreign matters and conflicts of law may be referred to another jurisdiction under the doctrine of renvoi. A person acquires a domicile of choice in Cyprus by establishing his home in Cyprus with the intention of permanent or indefinite residence therein; a person can only have one domicile at any time. A person’s estate would ordinarily not vest directly or automatically but in personal representatives either by will or operation of law. Co-ownership of property as joint beneficial tenants falls outside of an estate.

There are probate registrars and registers at each District Court. The probate registrars are responsible for, inter alia, grants of probate or administration and the receipt of wills for safe custody. There are specific provisions as regards the resealing of foreign probates or letters of administration. Within six months of death the personal representatives must file a statement of assets and liabilities with the Commissioner of Income Taxes.

© 2012 Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners