How to start probate proceedings: Everything you need to know

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The probate procedure (the legal term is the probate procedure) is a procedure that regulates the transfer of a deceased person's property (that is, the estate) to his heirs. This procedure is essential because it enables the fair and legal distribution of the deceased's property, in accordance with his will or legal provisions on inheritance.

In Serbia, probate proceedings are conducted before the competent court and notary public, and are regulated by Law on Inheritance and by the Law on non-litigation procedure . These laws define who can be an heir, how to inherit, what can be inherited, and other aspects of inheritance and probate.

The probate procedure begins with the submission of a request to initiate the procedure, and ends with the adoption of a decision on inheritance. During this procedure, it is determined who the heirs are and what each heir inherits.

Understanding the probate process is important for every citizen of Serbia, because most people face inheritance issues at some point. Whether you are planning the distribution of your assets, or you are an heir in a probate proceeding, it is important to know how this procedure works, in order to ensure that your rights and interests are adequately exercised and protected.

Law on non-litigation procedure: Overview of key aspects

Probate proceedings in Serbia are initiated ex officio as soon as the court learns that a certain person has passed away. Most often, the court finds out about the death of a person by receiving a public document that proves the death of that person from the competent registrar. However, probate proceedings can also be initiated at the initiative of interested parties who can inform the court that a person has passed away. An interested party, an heir or a creditor can submit to the court evidence of the death of the testator and thus propose the initiation of probate proceedings.

The legal course of probate proceedings

The procedure includes a series of steps. Upon the invitation of the notary, the relatives of the deceased submit basic information about the deceased, about the assets that make up the inheritance and the persons who can be invited to the inheritance. The notary checks whether the deceased left a will and if so, forwards it to the court. Then a hearing is scheduled, to which all those claiming inheritance and legal and testamentary heirs are invited. Then everything related to inheritance is discussed, especially the right to inheritance and the size of the inherited part. If in the course of probate proceedings disputed facts are revealed, the probate court will terminate the proceedings and direct the participants to litigation. This can happen, for example, if one of the heirs claims that the will was forged.

When it is determined to whom the right to inheritance belongs, a decision on inheritance is made, which ends the procedure. The heirs are obliged to make a clear statement whether they accept or renounce the inheritance. No one can accept the inheritance partially or conditionally. If it is not known whether the deceased has an heir, the court invites those who claim inheritance to apply within one year. If no heir is registered, the court will issue a decision handing over the inheritance to the Republic of Serbia.

Costs in the probate proceedings are determined in accordance with the Public Notary Tariff of the public notary as court trustee in probate proceedings.

How to check whether probate proceedings have been initiated?

To check whether probate proceedings have been initiated, you can contact the court in the territory where the testator last resided. There should be a record of the proceedings initiated, if any.

The deadline for initiating probate proceedings

The law does not prescribe a strict deadline for the initiation of probate proceedings, but it is generally considered that it should be initiated as soon as possible after the death of the deceased.

Who can initiate probate proceedings?

Probate proceedings are usually initiated by the court ex officio, but may also be initiated by heirs, whether testamentary or legal, as well as by anyone claiming a right to inherit. The procedure can also be initiated by the creditors of the testator, if they have reason to believe that the initiation of the procedure is in their interest.

Key elements of probate proceedings

Probate involves a number of key steps. After the procedure has been initiated, the phase of collecting the necessary documents and information follows. This includes assessing the value of the decedent's assets, identifying the heirs and determining their inheritance rights. After that, there is the actual discussion where the distribution of property is decided.

Does the probate hearing expire?

Statute of limitations in probate proceedings means that after a certain period of time, the rights and obligations related to the proceedings can no longer be enforced. However, probate proceedings as such do not expire, but certain rights and claims within the proceedings may expire.

How to avoid the statute of limitations of probate proceedings?

In order to avoid the statute of limitations, it is crucial that the proceedings be initiated and carried out within a reasonable time. Also, it is important to invest all the necessary legal remedies in a timely manner in order to preserve the rights in the procedure.

Key aspects of the Inheritance Law relating to probate proceedings

The definition of heir under the law includes legal and testamentary heirs. They can be defined as persons who are legally authorized to inherit the decedent's property. According to the Law on Inheritance in Serbia, heirs can be the decedent's descendants, adopted children and their descendants, spouse, parents, adoptive parents, brothers and sisters and their descendants, grandparents and their descendants, as well as other ancestors. Inheritance is carried out according to the order of succession, where the heirs of the closest order exclude from the inheritance the heirs of the further order. If the testator has no heirs and did not bequeath his property in a will, the heir is the Republic of Serbia.

The estate includes all property that the decedent leaves behind after death. This can include real estate, movable property, cash, stocks, bonds, copyrights, patents, shares in a company, and other assets. It also includes the decedent's debts and obligations.

The division of the inheritance is carried out according to the order of inheritance established by the Law on Inheritance. Each line of succession has its own heirs who inherit a certain part of the estate.

Inheritance law provides protection to heirs through various mechanisms. Heirs are entitled to their share of the inheritance and can demand protection of their rights in case of dispute. Also, the heirs have the right to renounce the inheritance. If the heir renounces the inheritance, he does not assume any obligations connected with the inheritance, but at the same time loses the right to any benefit that could arise from the inheritance.

How to inherit real estate?

Inheritance of real estate is done in the same way as inheritance of other assets. However, in the case of real estate, it is necessary to register ownership rights in the real estate cadastre.

How to inherit movable property?

Inheritance of movable property is carried out on the basis of law or will. Movable things are transferred to heirs without the need for formal registration of ownership rights.

How to inherit debts?

Inheritance of debts is carried out on the basis of the law. The heirs assume the obligations of the deceased person up to the value of the inherited property. If the value of the debts exceeds the value of the inherited property, the heirs can refuse the inheritance.

How to inherit business companies?

Inheritance of companies is carried out on the basis of law or will. The heirs assume the rights and obligations of the deceased person in connection with the share in the company. If the company has several owners, the rights of the deceased owner are transferred to his heirs.

How shares and shares are inherited?

Inheritance of shares and shares is carried out on the basis of law or will. The heirs take over the rights and obligations of the deceased person in relation to shares and shares.

How to inherit copyright?

Inheritance of copyright is done on the basis of law or testament. The heirs assume the rights and obligations of the deceased person in relation to copyright. Copyright is transferred to successors and may be used in accordance with According to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights.

How to inherit a pension?

Inheritance of the pension is carried out on the basis of the law. The right to a family pension is exercised under certain conditions prescribed by law.

Probate proceedings in Serbia

Probate proceedings in Serbia are carried out in several stages, which include:

Previous procedure

At this stage, the notary public prepares the death certificate, which is a report on the death of the deceased person, in which all the relevant data necessary to determine whether there is room for probate proceedings are recorded. These facts include the identification of the heirs, the determination of the property that constitutes the estate, and the determination of the rights that belong to the heirs, legatees and other persons from the estate.

Probate hearing

This phase includes the implementation of the probate hearing, during which the notary public determines all the legally relevant facts that are necessary to make a decision on inheritance. If a dispute arises between the participants during the probate procedure, the procedure is terminated and the participants are referred to litigation or to a procedure before an administrative authority.

After the probate hearing, the notary public issues a probate decision, which determines the legal consequences of the testator's death.

Proceedings according to legal remedies

At this stage, the participants in the procedure have the right to file an appeal against the probate decision.

Supplementing the probate procedure

After the adoption of a decision on probate proceedings, new circumstances may arise, such as the appearance of new heirs, the discovery of new property or the discovery of a will. In such cases, a new probate proceeding can be initiated or an already adopted decision can be modified.

Inheritance tax and other costs

When talking about inheritance, it is necessary to take into account provisions of the Law on Property Taxes. This Law regulates inheritance tax, which is paid on property acquired through inheritance.

The tax rate varies and ranges from 1.5% to 2.5%, depending on the order of inheritance to which the heir belongs.

It is important to note that inheritance tax is not paid by the heir of the first line of succession, the spouse and parent of the decedent.

The taxpayer is obliged to report the inheritance tax within 30 days from the day he became aware of the tax liability. After that, the taxpayer has a deadline of 15 days from the date of delivery of the tax assessment decision to make the payment.

If the taxpayer does not agree with the decision, he has the right to appeal.

The costs of probate proceedings include court fees, notary public fees and charges, property valuation costs, etc. In some cases, it is possible to waive the costs.

Frequently asked questions about probate

Many people wonder how long the probate hearing takes. The duration can vary depending on the complexity of the case, but the process can usually be expected to take several months.

Another common question is who can be present at the probate hearing. Apart from the heirs, their legal representatives can also be present at the hearing.

Final remarks

The probate procedure in Serbia is a complex process that requires an understanding of legal provisions and procedures. Throughout this guide, we have covered the key aspects of the Law on non-litigation procedure and the Law on Inheritance, as well as the steps to be taken during the probate procedure.

It is important to remember that probate proceedings are initiated before a court, and are often conducted by notaries public. Inheritance includes everything that a deceased person left behind, and heirs can be legal or testamentary. The declaration of inheritance is crucial for accepting or rejecting the inheritance, and the procedure ends with the adoption of a decision on inheritance. However, each inheritance procedure is unique and can bring its own challenges. That's why it's important to consult with experts who can provide legal advice and guide you through this process.

If you have any questions or concerns about probate, don't hesitate to contact our legal team. They are here to provide you with all the information and support you need. Call us today and let us ease your way through the probate process.

Marko Radonjić
Marko Radonjić
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