Many Britons and Irish who own properties in Bulgaria are turning to me with the question how to make a Bulgarian will. There is a huge difference between the Bulgarian Wills and Probate process and the UK one. That’s why the Bulgarian will has to be drafted as much close to the UK requirements as possible. Before we go through the details how you can make a will in Bulgaria, we have to clarify some jurisdiction specific topics. If you have already made a will in UK, check below if it is not in contradiction to the statutory requirements in Bulgaria.
What you can put in your Bulgarian will
As you are probably a UK citizen, your will is generally regulated by the statutes of the UK laws. Your UK will can contain how your bank accounts, movables, intellectual property etc. can be disposed after your death. However, a general legal principle provides that any rights and obligations concerning a real estate property are regulated by the jurisdiction,where the property is located. Following this principle, you can see the specific regulation in the Bulgarian International Private Code:
Article 89 (2) Succession to immovable property shall be governed by the law of the State in which the said property is situated
However this could be interpreted also for the probate process (death without will). Therefore the Code also provides explicit regulation, so that wills are valid, namely:
Article 90. (1) The capacity of a person to dispose of the property thereof by means of a will (making and revocation) shall be governed by the law applicable according to Article 89 herein.
As you can see, Article 90 refers the will regulation to Article 89 and we can clearly see that if you want to include your Bulgarian real estate property in a will, the latter should be made in Bulgaria, according to the statutes of the Bulgarian law.
How can I make my Bulgarian will
It’s easy to make a Bulgarian will. We, at MHLegal solicitors can draft your will, so that it conforms with the Bulgarian statutory requirements. Moreover we can make your will bilingual – both in Bulgarian and English language, because many translators in Bulgaria are just not aware of the legal terminology, which on the other hand can bring more troubles than benefits for the heirs of the deceased.
When you instruct our solicitors to prepare a draft of Bulgarian will for you, we will look at all aspects of the process, including going through a very simple process of estate planning in Bulgaria. We will look at your current property status – whether you own the real estate on your personal name(s) or through a limited company and will suggest the best way forward.
After the final draft is approved by you, you will have to attend a notary public office in Bulgaria, so that the will is certified. There are two types of will in Bulgaria:
- Handwritten will and
- Notarised will
The first type of will cannot be used by foreigners unless they can write, speak and understand Bulgarian. The statutory requirement for a handwritten will is that it is written in Bulgarian language. Therefore we assume most of the English who own properties in Bulgaria cannot use this option for their Bulgarian will. Even if someone considers that he is fluent in Bulgarian, a future will dispute will complicate the matter as the heirs will need to prove if their ancestor had been fluent in Bulgarian indeed.
The second option for a Bulgarian will suits our needs perfectly. There are a few benefits of the notarised will before the handwritten one.
First of all, the notarised will is witnessed by the notary public, who has official witness functions in Bulgaria. Therefore any disputes of the will are to be more difficult. Secondly, the notary keeps a book of all notarised wills e.g. there will be an original at notary’s archive after the person’s death. Even if the original is lost, the heirs can always get a copy from the notary’s archive.
And thirdly, the wills are registered at the Registry Agency. The wills have to be signed also by two witnesses. Every person has to make a separate will e.g. a married couple cannot make a single will.
Claiming and Disputing a Bulgarian will
Claiming the will is as simple as using the original for disposal deals. Of course this has to be done after the death of the person who made the will. Normally the authority where you present the will, requires a death certificate, legalised in UK, if the person died in the UK. If you will be using the will in UK (e.g. probate court), the Bulgarian will has to bear an apostille issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Disputing a will can be done by the lawful heirs of the deceased and can be initiated only before the Bulgarian courts.