You Have Property In Croatia, But You Can’t Get To It? Finally Revealed! Here Is How To Get Your Property In Croatia

With the change of generations, there is an increasing number of inheritance-related procedures that are carried out all over Croatia, but mostly in Lika and the hinterland of Dalmatia. There are more and more situations in which successors living in Serbia need to hire the help of a lawyer to acquire real estate in Croatia.


Failure to take care of the property – someone else becomes the owner


In Croatia, a large number of poor people live isolated from larger urban centers, and it is often the case that deceased persons did not write a will and have died single. Their successors are unknown to the local authorities, and the successors do not participate in the inheritance-related procedures. At the same time, these people often have ownership of hectares of forests, meadows, pastures, water sources, terrain in attractive locations along main roads, highways and in similar places.


Large pieces of that land are often either occupied by neighbors or illegally used by farmers, the forest is cut down uncontrollably, all because the successors do not know or do not understand the economic potential behind property ownership and management of the property.


A problem arises, because property used by other persons who are not entitled to it, under certain conditions, can acquire ownership of that property. In law, this is called acquisition of ownership by adverse possession, and it presents serious difficulties in practice to all those to whom their ancestors left property, but they did not register their ownership and did not visit, lease or otherwise use it from time to time.


Destroyed records inhibit succession


By default, after the death of every person in Croatia, the inheritance-related procedure is initiated ex officio. Until ten years ago, the procedure was conducted by the courts, and now it is conducted by notaries public. Notaries receive documentation from the court, and as agents of the court, conduct probate procedure.


Descendants of a deceased person participate in the procedure with a notary public. The notary public determines who might be the successor of the deceased person by examining the registers, and sends them an invitation to the inheritance-related hearing.


The problem arises when there are no registered children in the registers or when the information has not been updated for those successors or other relatives who moved out of Croatia. There are also big problems due to the destruction of registry and other records during the war, so complex situations that are difficult to solve without the help of a lawyer often arise.


The municipality can take your property if you are passive


In situations when a deceased person has no successors, the court appoints some kind of trustee, who in ideal conditions should study the publicly available information in more detail and invite potential successors to participate in the inheritance-related procedure.

In practice, this does not happen and the inheritance-related procedure ends with the deceased person’s property being declared municipal property.


Once a decision has been made that the property belongs to the city or municipality on whose territory it is located, there is no simple way to correct that decision. It is necessary to file a lawsuit against the city and municipality where the property is located in order to correct the situation in the land registry.


Family cooperatives as owners of hectares of property


In practice, cases where a deceased person is registered as the owner in the land registry are more easily resolved. The problem arises in the case of property with unregistered ownership or in the case of an incomplete state of land registry.


In most rural areas, land registry has not been updated for decades because it was too expensive under the former regimes and because people knew what belonged to whom. In this way, the strict division of ownership among individual persons was avoided, so in the Lika area there are still so-called family cooperatives, which manage real estate, even though these cooperatives were abolished several times by reforms in the 19th and 20th century.


This represents a greater challenge because, in addition to the subject of inheritance, it is also necessary to prove the fact of using the property over time. The proving is carried out in most cases within the litigation.


Years of irregular land registry situation make inheritance difficult


The registered situation may differ in the cadastral register and in the land register. The name of the de facto owner of the real estate is stated in the cadastral register, and the formal owner of the real estate is stated in the land registers. In proving ownership, the state from the cadaster can be used, but unlike the legal system in Serbia, in Croatia only an extract from the land register is valid for proving ownership of property.


In Ogulin, land registers are still “out of order”, which is why it is necessary to investigate the actual situation on the ground. All over Croatia, there are buildings that, instead of being registered in the land register, are entered in the so-called book of signed contracts. This data is not available online, unlike standard land registers. It is very likely that the apartment built in the 60s in Karlovac is entered in the books of signed contracts, and not in the land registers.


Given that the process of harmonizing the land registry and cadastral status is still ongoing in Croatia, there is often a situation where some real estate is recorded as representing so-called social ownership. And this needs to be corrected in court proceedings.


Start legal proceedings and claim your inheritance


In Croatia, judicial resolution of all the above-mentioned situations takes a long time. This is especially noticeable in Zadar, where there is a court that covers the entire Dalmatian hinterland, where there are the most properties owned by successors living in Serbia located.


Taxes do not prevent the acquisition and ownership of property in Croatia


In order to inherit real estate in Croatia, it is not necessary to have Croatian citizenship.


An inheritance tax payer is a person who inherits property in Croatia. There are certain cases in which the successor will not be liable to pay inheritance tax.


If the successor inherited the real estate, he will pay property transfer tax in the amount of 3% of the real estate value. If he inherited movable property or cash, he will pay a tax of 4%.


PS. There is no property tax in Croatia, so there is no need to be “afraid” of inheriting real estate. But, to avoid issues or losses, consider hiring an expert for property law matters who will help you realize your objectives without any mistakes.

For more information on this or any other legal, tax, or business topic, feel free to write to us at [email protected] at any time or call us at phone number +381113281914 every working day from 08:30 to 16:30.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem, and it should not be substituted for legal advice, which relies on a specific factual analysis. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult the authors of this publication, your AK STATT representative, or other competent legal counsel.

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