February 02, 2024

Last will and mandatory inheritance

Inheritance based on a will is an important legal institute that allows the deceased to determine how to distribute his property after death. This approach to succession allows you to adapt to the wishes of the deceased, thereby ensuring respect for his last wishes. However, the right of testamentary disposition is limited by the heir’s right to the so-called necessary part. In the continuation of this article, we present the most important legal decisions on the will and the necessary part.


A will can be made by any person capable of reasoning who has reached the age of 16. A will is null and void if at the time of assembly the testator was not 16 years of age or was not capable of reasoning. Unless proven otherwise, the testator shall be deemed capable of reasoning at the time the will was drawn up. The testator was incapable of reasoning if at that moment he was unable to comprehend the meaning of his manifestation and its consequences, or he was unable to govern of his own will so much as to act in accordance with that knowledge. The loss of reasoning that would occur after a will has been made does not affect its validity.

Annulment of a will due to defects of will

The will will will be revoked upon request if the testator was forced by threat or force to make it or decided to make it because he was deceived or misled. Threat, force or fraud are reasons for the cancellation of a will even when they originate from a third party. Dispositions of the will shall also be annulled upon request if the testator was mistaken about the facts which aroused the testator to make those dispositions. If only certain testamentary provisions are made under threat or force, by fraud, or in error, this does not entail invalidity and other provisions if they can survive without that provision.

The annulment of a will or some of its provisions due to threat or force, fraud or error may only be requested by a person having a legal interest in doing so, within one year of becoming aware of the existence of a cause of invalidity, but no later than ten years after the declaration of the will. A period of one year cannot begin to run before the declaration of a will. According to the person who caused faults in the testator’s will, or knew or should have known about them, the cancellation of the will may be requested within 20 years from the date of the declaration of the will.

Forms of wills

A will can be private (handwritten or written in front of witnesses), public (drawn up by a notary public or other authorized person), or in extraordinary circumstances (orally pronounced in special situations).

Handwritten will

A will is valid if the testator has written it in his or her own hand and has signed it. For the validity of a handwritten will, it is not necessary, but it is useful, that it indicates the place and date when it was drawn up.

Written will in front of witnesses

A testator who can read and write can draw up a will by declaring to two witnesses present that it is his will for the document, regardless of who drew it up, and signing it before them. Witnesses will sign on the will itself, and it is useful to indicate their status as witnesses, as well as other circumstances that could benefit their easier finding.

Public will

Anyone can validly make a will in the form of a public will, and a person who cannot or cannot read or cannot be signed may in ordinary circumstances be willed only in the form of a public will.

The public will shall be drawn up in the Republic of Croatia by a municipal court judge, a court adviser in a municipal court or a notary public, and abroad by a consular or diplomatic-consular representative of the Republic of Croatia (authorised person). The authorized person draws up the will according to the testator’s testimony. The authorized person will read the drafted will to the testator, explain the legal consequences of the will’s disposition and have him sign the will before him. On all actions referred to in the previous paragraph, the authorized person will make a record in the document on drafting the will, confirming that all these actions have been taken. This record is signed by the testator and the authorized person. If the testator is unable to sign the will or the record, he will give the reason to the authorized person who will record this on the will and the minutes. The testator may ask another person to sign it on the will and minutes.

Witnesses of a written will

When drafting a written will before witnesses and a public will, witnesses may be adults who have not been deprived of legal capacity and who know and can read and write. They may not be witnesses when drafting a written will before witnesses or a public will, nor make a will according to the will’s statement in the capacity of an authorized person: the testator’s descendants, his adoptive parents and their descendants, his ancestors and adoptive parents, his relatives in the collateral line up to the fourth degree, the spouses of all these persons or the testator’s spouse. Testamentary provisions are null and void which leave something to the person who made the will, to witnesses in drawing up it, to their spouses, their ancestors, their descendants, their relatives in the collateral lineage to the fourth degree of kinship, and to the spouses of all these persons.

Wills in extraordinary circumstances

The testator may manifest his last will orally before two witnesses present at the same time only in extraordinary circumstances for which he is unable to make a will in any other valid form. The oral will shall cease to be valid when 30 days have elapsed since the termination of the extraordinary circumstances in which it was made. Witnesses of an oral will can only be persons who can also be witnesses of a public will, but they do not need to be able to read or write.

Contents of the will

The will should clearly determine the heirs, may contain certain orders, conditions, as well as the appointment of the executor of the will.

The deceased is authorized to dispose of everything he was authorized to dispose of in the event of death during his lifetime, unless something specifically prescribed. The testator may, by will, produce the same legal effects that he could have done in his lifetime by unilaterally manifesting his will, if nothing else is prescribed. The testator may, by his will, cause only the hereditary legal effects provided for in this Law. How limited the testator in the freedom of disposal is for the benefit of his family members, determine the provisions on the necessary succession of this Law.

The testator may designate one or more heirs by will. An heir on the basis of a will is a person designated by the testator to succeed him in whole or in proportion. A person who has been left with one or more certain things or rights by will shall also be considered an heir, if it is established that the testator’s will was for that person to be his heir.

Executors of wills

The testator may designate one or more persons as executors of the will by will.

The executor of a will can be any legally capable person, as well as a legal person. The person designated as the executor of the will is not obliged to receive this duty. It shall be deemed that he has accepted the duty of executor of the testator’s will by a person designated to do so by the testator if he has not expressly stated before the court immediately after the declaration of the will to which he was present that these duties are not accepted. It shall be deemed that he has not accepted the duty of executor of the testator’s will a person designated for it by the testator who was not present at the declaration of the will, if not to the court, after informing him that he or she was appointed executor of the testator’s will, within the time limit set by the court, he stated without delay that he accepted that duty.

Revocation of a will

A will may be revoked or changed by a new will, under certain circumstances.

The testator may always revoke the will, in whole or in part, by a manifesto given in any form in which a will can be made by law. The testator may revoke the written will and destroy the document. In other words, the rules on the validity of the will are applied accordingly as regards the validity of the will.

If the later will does not expressly revoke the earlier will, the provisions of the earlier will remain in force if and unless they are contrary to the provisions later. If the testator has revoked the later will, the earlier will regains its force, unless it is proven that the testator did not want it. The same applies in the event that he revoked the revocation of the will. Any subsequent disposal of the testator’s willing disposition of a thing or right intended by a will to someone is considered a revocation of the purpose of that thing, i.e. the right.

Testamentary dispositions in favour of the testator’s spouse will be deemed to be revoked if the marriage has terminated on the basis of a final judgment after the will has been drawn up, unless the testator has otherwise determined by his will.

Necessary heirs

Special attention is paid to the necessary heirs who, despite the testator’s wishes expressed in the will, are entitled to a certain part of the estate.

Who are the necessary heirs:

The necessary heirs are the testator’s descendants, his adoptive parents and their descendants, and his spouse. The deceased’s parents, adoptive parents and other ancestors are necessary heirs only if they are permanently unfit for work and do not have the necessary means of subsistence.

What are the rights of heirs in dispensation:

  • the necessary part of the descendants, adoptive parents and their descendants and the spouse amounts to one half,
  • the necessary part of the other necessary heirs one-third

from the part that would belong to each individual of them in the legal order of succession.

Calculation of the value of the necessary part

The value of the estate on the basis of which the value of the reserved share is calculated shall be determined as follows:

  • It is first necessary to list and evaluate all the goods that the testator had at the time of death, counting here and everything he had at his disposal in his will, as well as all his claims, including those he has against an heir, except for claims that are obviously unrecoverable.
  • From the established value of the goods that the deceased had at the time of death, the amount of the deceased’s debts, the amount of the costs of the list and the estimate of the estate and the costs of burial of the testator are deducted.
  • The remainder thus obtained is added to the value of all the gifts that the deceased has made in any way to a legal heir, regardless of whether he inherits the deceased, even the gifts made to heirs who renounce the inheritance, as well as those gifts for which the deceased has ordered not to be counted to the heir in his inheritance part.
  • This is also added to the value of the gifts that the deceased in the last year of his life made to other persons who are not legal heirs, except for the smaller usual gifts.

It will not be taken into this account and the value of gifts made for the achievement of non-profit purposes, as well as gifts that are not counted to the heir on the basis of the law itself, are not counted in his inheritance portion.

What is considered a gift and what is the value of the gift

A gift is also considered to be a renunciation of rights, debt forgiveness, what the deceased gave to the heir during his lifetime in the name of the hereditary part, either for the purpose of establishing or expanding a household, or for the purpose of exercising his occupation, as well as any other disposal without compensation. When assessing the gift, the value of the gifted thing is taken at the time of the deceased’s death, and according to its condition at the time of the donation. When the gift consists in insurance in favour of the endowment, the sum of the instalments of the premiums paid by the deceased will be taken as the value of the gift if that sum is less than the indemnity, and if the sum of the instalments of the premium is greater than the indemnity, the amount of the insured will be taken as the value of the gift.


The will must be carefully drawn up respecting the rules on the form and content of the will, as well as the heirs’ rights to the reserved part. In order to protect the rights of all parties involved, especially the necessary heirs, we recommend hiring a lawyer when drafting a will.

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