Collecting an inheritance from Romania
Last update: September 2018.
Many of our clients located abroad come to us in order to collect an inheritance from a close relative who remained in Romania. In this post, we explain how to do that, and where we can help. We deal with non-litigious cases, i.e., those where our client or clients are not challenged by anyone else, but need help so as to avoid traveling or remaining in Romania for the duration of the estate process.
To make a free inquiry regarding a Romanian succession, please use our smart form to explain your situation.
1. When is an estate opened in Romania?
According to Romanian law, an estate is opened only on the death of the person leaving it.
If the death took place in Romania, this is proven with a Romanian death certificate. If you are the heir of the person you can also apply here for a Romanian death certificate.
If the death took place abroad, the foreign death certificate is not recognized, unless it is first transcribed in Romanian civil status registries. You can apply here for a transcription. This will result in a Romanian death certificate.
The only exception is made for foreign citizens who never had Romanian citizenship, and who were not born in Romania. In this case, the foreign death certificate is sufficient, provided it has the required Apostille or Legalization (see more here).
We can help with obtaining death certificates, transcriptions and the Apostille or Legalization, as needed.
Important information for US deaths abroad: the 'Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad' is not a death certificate! For deaths of US citizens outside the US or Romania, the correct document to open the estate in Romania is the local (foreign) death certificate. If that has been lost, there is a way around it, but less easy. Please e-mail us with the details.
2. Which authority deals with estates in Romania?
In Romania, there are two competent authorities dealing with estates:
- the notary public, who in Romania is entrusted with state power to regulate successions (estates) when there is no litigious aspect (i.e., when the parties are not in dispute); and
- the civil courts, for any dispute.
We ensure representation before the notary public. Court cases are only taken up if they present unusual problems of private international law, and the client understands that, in Romania, even a simple estate litigation can take over 2-3 years, and involve major costs.
3. What documents are needed to collect an estate in Romania?
To address the notary public with a request to open the estate, we would need the following documentation:
-> an authentic Power of Attorney from you. We will advise where to make it.
Please note that, in the US, most notaries public cannot make authentic Powers of Attorney. There are a few such notaries, whose details you can find in the website of the National Association of Civil Law Notaries. The same applies for other common law countries.
-> authentic copies of your passport information page. We will advise where to obtain these.
-> the death certificate of the deceased, as above.
We can retrieve it for you if the death took place in Romania, respectively transcribe the foreign death certificate if the death took place abroad.
-> your Declaration of Acceptance of the succession.
This is the authentic statement whereby you accept to receive the benefits, and be bound by the debts, of the estate, to the monetary equivalent of its assets. We will advise where to do it, or you can include it in the Power of Attorney for us to do it in your name. We also take care of registering it in the National Electronic Notarial Registry.
-> two witnesses that can attest your descent from the deceased, or your relationship with the deceased, and can be heard in Romania.
If you do not know any persons close to the deceased in Romania, we can make inquiries with the use of a private detective. If the witnesses are located abroad, we can arrange for an international (video-link) hearing.
-> documentation proving your status.
This can include civil status (birth, marriage) certificates, proving your relationship with the deceased, or a copy of the Will, if you are the executor or legatee. If you do not have the Will, but it was made at a Romanian notary public, we can retrieve it for you based on the death certificate.
-> documentation relating to the assets in the estate.
This must include, at a minimum, the title over any immovable assets, as well as fiscal certificates for any immovable assets, as well as cars, planes, and other registration-bound items. We can obtain all of these for your if you do not have them, provided they can be found in public registries. Otherwise, they can be reconstituted through a court action.
Note that you do not need to know the exact bank accounts of the deceased. We can obtain a list, with value information, from the banks upon opening of the estate.
-> documentation regarding the debts of the deceased.
This must include the fiscal certificate stating that the deceased did not have debts towards the Romanian state, which we can obtain for you upon opening of the estate. If you are a creditor, or would like to pursue the procedure of "purgating" the estate (meaning, to receive only the net assets of the estate after the liquidation of all the debts, like in common law countries), then you should be able to state with some confidence whether there are or not any creditors of the deceased, and who they may be. We can make inquiries with the help of a private detective.
4. Does the notary deal with assets located outside Romania?
Normally no, the Romanian notary public only deals with assets located within Romania. There can be exceptions for movable assets (i.e. money) located abroad, as well as under certain applications of Regulation 650/2012, depending on the countries involved.
5. What is the regime of debts? Can we make an inventory?
As opposed to common law countries, in Romania the heirs receive both the assets, and the responsibility for the debts of the deceased, up to the notional value of the assets. If you would like, we can arrange for an official and legally valid inventory of all the deceased's assets, together with their valuation. Furthermore, if you would like to receive only the net value of the estate, free of any debts, we can undertake the "purgation" of the estate, which involves a public call for creditors, the sale of assets if needed to fulfill the debts, and the realization of the net active of the estate, which you will receive in kind or in money as applicable.
6. How long does it take?
From past experience, non-litigious estates, without the "purgation" procedure, took around 12-16 months between the first contact, and the issuing of the certificate of inheritance, which is the final document and proof of ownership over the assets in the estate.
7. How much does it cost? Is there an inheritance / estate tax?
Unfortunately, we cannot make an off-the-cuff estimate. Particularly, the notarial fees, which are set by law, vary according to the valuation of the estate. This is the only situation where we cannot give fixed fees in advance, but must assess them as the valuation takes place, which can only be after the actual opening of the estate. However, as a rough rule of thumb, consider 5-10% of the value of the estate, with the percentage going down significantly the more valuable the estate is.
In Romania, there is no estate / inheritance tax, whatever your status (heir, legatee) and whatever the value of the estate. This applies for 2 years from the death! In other words, this means that you have to finish the estate process, and receive the certificate of inheritance within two years. This is an important reason why court trials are not helpful, because they push the finalization of the estate process a lot over the 2 years deadline. It does not matter whether you instigated the trial or not. And it is also why we mostly take only notary successions, and work hard to finish them before the 2 years' deadline.
If you pass over the 2 years deadline, then the estate / inheritance tax is 1% of the value of the succession, with no upper or lower limit.
8. Can I export / sell the estate?
Yes, once you are in possession of the certificate of inheritance you can sell the assets in the estate, and export the money, or export the movable assets directly. The only exception to the export freedom is for forbidden / culturally restricted items. Under EU Regulations, you may benefit from VAT-free and customs tax - exempt export outside the EU for a certain time after the death (please note that third countries may impose their own taxes).
You can even sell a share of a common property as such, for example 1/2 of an apartment, even if the other co-owner does not agree.
We can help you with the entire sale / export process.
9. Do I need to be a Romanian citizen to inherit?
The only exception is the rule that non-EU citizens may not inherit agricultural land except by "legal" inheritance. This means, in other words, that, as a non-EU citizen, you may nor inherit agricultural land, if you would do so only as a legatee. If you have a valid and useful claim both as a legatee and as a legal heir, then you may inherit the share of a legal heir, including in agricultural land. If this restriction applies to you, you can inherit the value of the corresponding land in other assets or in money.