Thinking about death and what happens to your possessions and properties after you pass away are not pleasant thoughts to have. When you live in a foreign country, you must consider these things to ensure your heirs don't run into trouble when sharing your assets as an inheritance.
What Happens to My Assets When I Die in Turkey?
According to Turkish law, when a foreigner dies in Turkey, their nationality laws apply when disposing of their assets, even if they are legally resident in Turkey. The only exception is property, which will apply Turkish laws and regulations.
Any property and money you leave behind will be divided among close relatives as per the Civil Code. Your heirs will be called "mirasçı."
Note: If you are married to a Turkish citizen, you are subject to Turkish law. Your religion also does not affect jurisdictions concerning inheritance.
Will I Have to Pay Inheritance Tax?
If you inherit property or other assets in Turkey, you must pay inheritance tax (veraset vergisi), which is updated annually.
The rates also change in line with the amount of taxable inheritance and the relationship between the testator and heir.
Inheritance tax rates, according to their tax brackets are as follows:
- Up to TL 160,000 1%
- 160,000 - 510,000 3%
- 510,000 - 1,280,000 5%
- 1,280,000 - 2,780,000 7%
- Over 2,780,000 10%
With a Will vs. Without
If you have Turkish citizenship and die without preparing a will (or, in other words, die intestate), your property is distributed to your next of kin according to rules laid down by Turkish law. Turkish law favors children and parents over spouses when it comes to inheritance.
Even if you are not married to a Turk or do not have Turkish citizenship, drawing up a will be of great help to your successors following your death and can produce more favorable outcomes.
Turkish law states that the deceased's legacy will be subject to the laws of succession in their country of origin, but property inheritance is the only exception to that rule. Regardless of the person's nationality, you are subject to the Turkish law of succession on property matters.
TLDR: Immovable property is regulated by the laws where it is located, whereas for movable assets, this is not the case, and citizenship comes into play.
To make an inheritance claim and collect their dues, the heirs have to lodge an appeal at court in the district where the property is located, supporting it with legal heirship documents and evidence.
Note: A non-resident who acquires property as inheritance is not subject to this law.
Preparing a Will in Turkey
Ask any legal counsel, and their advice would be to prepare a will to make sure that your heirs have no problems with the inheritance of your assets or property.
You could draw one up in Turkey or have one prepared in your only country. A foreign will that is designed legally and complies with Turkish law can be accepted, but it is always best to have one drafted here when in doubt.
Note: Wills penned in languages other than Turkish have to be translated.
***To make a will in Turkey, you need to be of sound mind and older than 15.
Your will should include information about your properties, assets, your successors, and it should clearly state that it is a will. It must evidence your mental and physical capability of preparing such a document and be signed with your name, date, and signature.
Note: If you decide to write the will by hand instead of typing it on a computer, you need to make sure all of it is handwritten and not just the signature.
You will need the following documents to draft a will:
- Your passport/ID and tapu(s) (title-deeds), plus a photocopy of them
- A copy of the passport(s) or kimlik(s) of the future heir(s) and witnesses
- 4 photographs
- Your Turkish tax number
If you do not speak Turkish fluently and are a foreign citizen, you will need to have a translator present at the notary public and have 2 Turkish witnesses.
You will have to submit these documents to your translator at least a day before the signing of the will so that they can prepare them in Turkish.
On the day of signing, you will be asked to obtain a health certificate from a hospital proving you are of sane mind, and the translator/interpreter will join you.
The witnesses must come with their Turkish IDs or passports.
The official testament will be drawn up in three identical copies after all necessary changes have been made and you agree on the final draft. Each document has your photograph affixed with the signatures of the notary, the translator, the 2 witnesses, and, of course, you. You will take home one copy as the property owner, the notary will keep the second, and the third will be sent to the Directorate of Population.
If you'd like to make changes to your will after some time, you can cancel it, change it fully or partially or create a new one through the notary.
Dying in Turkey
When a family member, relative, or friend dies in Turkey, it is mandatory to report it.
After the local doctor certifies the death, which will be the case if the death didn't happen at a hospital, they will issue you with a death certificate (ölüm belgesi). If no suspicious circumstances are suspected, the body is taken to the morgue to be prepared for burial or repatriation.
You will then have to register the death with the Population Registry Office (Nüfus Müdürlüğü) within 10 days to obtain an internationally recognized, multilingual Formül C death certificate. Only after you receive this will you be able to register the death back at home, usually via your consulate.
You will also separately need a burial permit/license, which will be issued by a doctor appointed by the local municipality.
All the services provided by Turkish municipalities (transportation of the remains, washing and shrouding the body, burial) are for free. If you are Muslim, the city also sends a "hoca" to your home for prayers, food, chairs, and a funeral car. However, if you want to hold a special non-Muslim ceremony, you will have to arrange it yourself and pay.
You cannot organize a funeral without the deceased person's passport and death certificate.
The Municipal Funeral Department (Belediye Cenaze İşleri), located in your local town hall, will be dealing with the death. After completing all the paperwork, they will release the body for the funeral.
Under normal circumstances, burials in Turkey happen within a day or 2 at the latest if autopsies or investigations are not involved. However, family wishes for the timing of interment and ceremonies are taken into consideration.
In theory, non-Muslims can be buried following their religion and traditions. However, there are no crematoriums in Turkey.
If you live in a part of Turkey where there are many foreigners, the local department may even have a specialist dealing with such cases or can provide you with information as to who can guide you.
Repatriating the remains
To repatriate the deceased's body to their home country, you will have to enlist the help of a local embassy or consulate.
After applying to the Municipal Funeral Department with an official request from your consulate to transfer the body, you will be given a travel permit (yol izin belgesi) and burial permit (defin ruhsatı). After the coffin is fully sealed, a municipality doctor will also be issued an export permit and subsequently a customs certificate after necessary examinations.
Documents Needed for Repatriation
- Turkish death certificate + translation for the home country
- Embalming report
- Affidavit by the mortician
- Consular mortuary certificate (to be prepared by the embassy/consulate)
- Export permit
- Customs transportation certificate
The cost of a local burial will vary from city to city and municipality. It also largely depends on whether it is a common grave or private cemetery, ranging from a couple of hundred liras to TL 40,000 or more, especially with the addition of embalming as it is not customary in Turkey. These costs are primarily due to the cost of burial plots. If you want to be buried in a coffin, expect to add that to the price.
The cost for procedures such as embalming, documentation, and the shipment of remains (primarily via air) varies greatly. It can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 or more.