This article describes the main rules and problems of accepting inheritance with foreign elements in Russia.
1. Applicable law
Under Russian law, the rules for inheritance of movable property (including the period for accepting inheritance) are determined by the law of the country where the testator (deceased) had their last place of residence. On the contrary, the inheritance of immovable property is determined by the law of the country where the property is located.
The place of death of the testator is not related to the rules of inheritance, as well as their citizenship, except for cases established by international treaties. For example, several existing agreements on legal assistance with foreign states apply the law of the country of citizenship of the testator at the time of death to inheritance of movable property.
2. Place of residence
In Russia, the place of residence is understood as a habitable dwelling in which a citizen permanently or predominantly resides legally and in which they are registered.
In most cases, it is the fact of administrative registration at the place of residence that creates the presumption of permanent or predominant residence of a citizen, which is taken into account after their death when determining the place of opening the inheritance. However, this does not preclude the possibility of establishing the last place of residence of the testator based on other indisputable documents out of court. Most often, for these purposes certificates of local governments, management companies and other organizations serving residential premises, military registration and enlistment offices, social security authorities, employers, extracts from the house book indicating the specific place of residence of the testator are submitted.
3. Details of inheritance with foreign elements
Foreign citizens and stateless persons, when inheriting under Russian law, usually accept the inheritance in the general manner, by submitting a notarized application within 6 months from the date of death. As an alternative method, it is possible to perform actual actions indicating an acceptance of the inheritance, for example, taking possession of and managing the property, taking measures to protect it, paying debts of the testator.
In case of violation of the 6-month deadline, it is possible to apply to court for extension of time if the heir did not know and should not have known about the opening of the inheritance or missed this period for other excusable reasons. The heir can also accept the inheritance without going to court if the other heirs give a notarized consent to this.
Foreign heirs, if necessary, will have to provide the Russian notary with notarized translations of documents, as well as their legalized or apostilled copies.
Further, if the testator had the last place of residence abroad, then the competent authority for inheritance of movable property (including Russian property) will be a foreign notary or court. If this testator had Russian real estate, a certificate of the right to inheritance is issued by a Russian notary at the real estate’s location. In the future, the heirs will be able to exercise their rights to receive property by presenting documents for inheritance duly executed for action in Russia (translation + legalization / apostille) and issued by the competent authorities of a foreign state.
We especially note that if the testator does not have real estate in Russia and the last place of residence was abroad, then the Russian notary cannot open an inheritance case.
If the testator had the last place of residence in Russia, but had foreign assets, then the competent authority for the inheritance case will be a Russian notary who has the right to issue a general (without specifying property) certificate of inheritance outside the Russian Federation. However, it cannot be guaranteed that such a certificate will be accepted by a foreign state for the purposes of obtaining an inheritance. All subsequent actions related to clarifying the contents of the estate and performing other necessary formalities are usually carried out by the heirs on their own (with the help of local lawyers).
When the heirs do not know the exact contents of the estate, they can petition the notary to send requests to credit or other organizations in the application for acceptance of the inheritance. It should be noted that the search for inheritance property is not in the notarial duties. The notary only assists the heirs in the search by preparing requests to specific organizations.
As for requests of foreign authorities regarding the Russian property of the testator, at present Russian legislation does not provide for clear mechanisms for state interaction in such cases. Theoretically, such requests can be made within the framework of individual international treaties on legal assistance and legal relations, but we do not know how widespread this practice is. There is a possibility that the heirs will have to independently take measures to search for property, since even if the case is opened by a Russian notary, their assistance in finding the property will be limited.
Based on the above, we can conclude that the conduct of several inheritance cases in different countries from the point of view of Russian law is not allowed, since notaries simply refuse to open a case if the permanent residence of the testator was abroad. An exception is the presence of real estate in Russia. When a case is opened by a Russian notary due to the testator's residence in Russia and they had foreign property, notaries issue general (objectless) certificates of inheritance and, as a rule, do not interact with foreign authorities and officials in establishing the exact contents of the estate.
4. Our services
Law firm “Avakov Tarasov & Partners” is ready to provide the following services related to acceptance of an inheritance:
- general advice on the procedure for accepting an inheritance, considering the specific circumstances of clients
- representation of heirs’ interests before notaries and other persons when entering into an inheritance
- full support of inheritance litigation
- assistance in search of the testator’s property located in the Russian Federation.
 Art. 1224(1) of the Russian Civil Code; Ruling of the Fourth Cassation Court of general jurisdiction dated 28 October 2021, case No 88-21550/2021.
 Bulgaria (Art. 35), Hungary (Art. 40), Vietnam (Art. 42), North Korea (Art. 39), Poland (Art. 42), Romania (Art. 40).
 Art. 2 of Russian Law dated 25 June 1993 No 5242-I on the Right of Russian Citizens to Freedom of Movement, Choice of Place of Stay and Residence in Russia.
 Para 2.1 of Guidelines for registration of inheritance rights (approved by the decision of the Board of the Federal Notary Chamber dated 25 March 2019, protocol No 03/19).
 Para 5.7 of Guidelines for registration of inheritance rights (approved by the decision of the Board of the Federal Notary Chamber dated 25 March 2019, protocol No 03/19).
 Art. 1153(2) of the Russian Civil Code.
 Art. 1155(1) of the Russian Civil Code.
 Art. 1155(2) of the Russian Civil Code.
 Para 13.4 of Guidelines for registration of inheritance rights (approved by the decision of the Board of the Federal Notary Chamber dated 25 March 2019, protocol No 03/19).
 Zaitseva T.I., Medvedev I.G. Notarial practice: answers to questions. Moscow: Infotropic Media, 2010. Chapter 10; Medvedev I.G. Handbook of a notary: In 4 volumes. International private law, criminal law and process in notarial activity. T. 4. M.: Statut, 2015. §4(2); Decision of the Rudnichny District Court of the city of Prokopyevsk dated 25 October 2016, case No 2-3057/2016~M-2515/2016; Decision of the Leninsk-Kuznetsk City Court of the Kemerovo Region dated 20 December 2012, case No 2-2973/2012~M-2915/2012.
 Decision of the Kuznetsk District Court of the Penza Region dated 16 October 2019 No 2-1351/2019~M-1438/2019; Appeal ruling of the Omsk District Court dated 29 June 2017, case No 33-3622/2017; Decision of the Maisky District Court of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic dated 30 June 2011, case No 2-174/2011.
 Forms Nos 3.3 and 3.4, approved by Order of the Russian Ministry of Justice dated 30 September 2020 No 226; Para 13.4 of Guidelines for registration of inheritance rights (approved by the decision of the Board of the Federal Notary Chamber dated 25 March 2019, protocol No 03/19).
 Para 5.16 of Guidelines for registration of inheritance rights (approved by the decision of the Board of the Federal Notary Chamber dated 25 March 2019, protocol No 03/19); Decision of the Istra City Court of the Moscow Region dated 20 January 2016, case No 2-598/2016(2-4662/2015;)~M-4241/2015.
 Ruling of the First Cassation Court of general jurisdiction dated 5 November 2020 No 88-23481/2020.
 Paras 50-54 of Guidelines on the organization of work to fulfill the international obligations of the Russian Federation in the field of legal assistance (approved by Order of the Russian Ministry of Justice dated 24 December 2007 No 249).
 R.S. Bevzenko, S.L. Budylin, E.V. Kozhevina and others. Inheritance law: article-by-article commentary on articles 1110 - 1185, 1224 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. M.: M-Logos, 2018. Commentary on Art. 1162 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, para 1.1, p. 404-405.
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