Order of succession

Sunday, 01 September 2013
Kira Egorova and Ekaterina Vasina analyse the limitations on testators under Russia’s inheritance law.

As a general rule, Russian succession legislation (chiefly contained in Title 5, Book 3 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation (CCRF)) applies where an estate includes any immovable property located in Russia, or where the testator’s last permanent place of residence was in Russia. Thus, different types of property included in the estate may be regulated by different jurisdictions depending on its location and the location of the testator’s residence.

The deceased’s rights and duties are held in their estate. The estate can contain property rights, obligations and other assets owned by the testator on death, but not all property and rights can be inherited. Rights and duties that have a close connection to the testator are not part of the estate. These are the right to alimony, compensation for personal injury, assets registered for possession by third parties or companies but not relating to the testator directly, and beneficiaries’ rights.

Each item in the estate will be transferred as joint property of the heirs, and without a will there is no way to prevent disputes between the heirs over the property

Pursuant to articles 1141–1145 and 1148 CCRF, heirs normally inherit the estate property in equal shares in order of succession. Heirs that are next in line to inherit will succeed only where there are no previous inheritors. Each item in the estate will be transferred as joint property of the heirs, and without a will there is no way to prevent disputes between the heirs over the management or disposal of the inherited property. Article 1118 CCRF provides that a will can be issued at any time during the testator’s life, but the ownership rights will pass to the heirs only after the testator’s death.

Compulsory share

Under the will, any property existing at the date of a person’s death, either in Russia or abroad, may be inherited by anyone in any proportion. An exception exists for the testator’s minors, disabled children, disabled spouse, parents and dependants, who will inherit, irrespective of the will, no less than half of the share each of them would have been entitled to if no will was in place (the compulsory share).

The only way to exclude heirs entitled to a compulsory share is to execute inter vivos transactions, such as making donations or establishing a trust in respect of the property, as this overrules legal succession.

Gifts and conditions

The law does not contain any provision for the return of gifts after the grantor’s death. However, transactions concluded by the testator may be disputed by the heirs after the testator’s death if the testator was incapable at the moment of concluding the transactions, or if the transactions are in breach of the law.

The will may, or may not, stipulate conditions under which the estate will pass to the heirs (for example, when the heir reaches a particular age or on the provision of education), and it may, or may not, contain guidelines on how the property should be managed or disposed of after the testator’s death.


To come into possession of the estate, the heirs should submit an application to the notary at the place of the testator’s last place of residence no later than six months after the testator’s death. The notary shall issue a certificate of succession right to those heirs who come into possession of the estate. This certificate is usually issued by the notary on the expiry of the six-month period after the testator’s death, except where the heirs may be clearly identified and where no disputes between the heirs are expected. Until the certificate is issued, the main concern is how to manage the estate, as the authorities and terms of the administrator are limited by article 1135 CCRF and may not be extended under the will.


The Administration of the President of the Russian Federation has recently initiated amendments to the inheritance legislation. These are intended to take into account the testator’s wishes in the will in a broader manner, and to extend the authority of administrators and determine their status.

A proposal to create the legislative framework for a foundation-type concept is also being considered. It is unclear when and how the initiatives will be implemented.

Author block
Kira Egorova and Ekaterina Vasina

Kira Egorova TEP is Of Counsel and Ekaterina Vasina is a Senior Attorney with Alrud law firm, Moscow.

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