Certificate of Heirs - What is it, how does one obtain it and when is it useful?

The issue of official “certificate of heirship”

Foreign individuals who choose to live in Bulgaria may require legal advice on leaving their Bulgarian property behind after they pass away. Since Bulgaria has a system of ‘reserved shares’ (for certain categories of relatives) and since one may choose not to leave a will (or may consider the situation in which their will is for some reason not valid), one of those issues is how to prove heirship through a family relationship before the Bulgarian authorities.

Civil registries in Bulgaria

Bulgarian civil registration law provides that only foreign nationals who are long-term or permanent residents are required to register in municipal Civil Registries.

As the civil registry keeps records on the name(s), civil and martial status, descendants of persons on the Registers, in such cases foreign individuals should have no problem obtaining a Certificate of Inheritance (“удостоверение за наследници” in Bulgarian).

What if someone who has Bulgarian assets has not registered in Bulgaria, either because they were informed they did not qualify or because they were unaware of the possibility?

The problem from the perspective of a British/Irish national

The problem of proving the heirship arises often with UK citizens, as the British / Irish authorities do not provide a document similar to the Bulgarian Certificate of Inheritance.

The lack of such official document (whether named Certificate of Heirs, Inheritance Certificate, Succession Certificate, etc.), proving the capacity of heir creates the following problems most commonly:

Proving the capacity of heir of a deceased owner of shares in a Bulgarian limited liability company in case of the inheritance of shares;

Proof before a Notary in the transfer of property owned by the deceased;

- Proof of capacity of heir to participate in judicial or administrative proceedings.


As a result of the above, Bulgarian authorities often refuse services to a person who claims to be an heir, citing the lack of "official documents" proving that capacity.

New Balkans Law Office has developed practical know-how and various ways to deal with the matter depending on the facts of the case and we find that the vast majority of these situations are resolvable.

We are happy to advise and propose a solution. Please contact us on our Sofia or London numbers or by e-mail for more information.

Recent work:

Advising on an LCIA claim

Suppliers with less bargaining power sometimes accede to arbitration clauses which make bringing or defending a claim prohibitively expensive.

In such cases, it is especially important when acting for the potential claimant (and subject to a judgement on the overall viability of the claim), to offer a cost-effective solution to allow the claim to get off the ground. This may include assessing whether the arbitration clause is likely to be found effective or pathological, and whether it may be permissible and advisable to launch court proceedings instead (which can be more economical especially in their early phases).

It is also helpful to be able to rely on advice which is simultaneously excellent in relation to both the jurisdiction in which enforcement is likely to be sought (e.g., Bulgaria) and the jurisdiction whose governing law the parties have agreed to apply or which applies for another reason.

NBLO recently acted for a potential claimant in such a situation alongside the client's existing Bulgarian counsel to advise on the interplay of the arbitration rules of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and Bulgarian law and on the mechanics and prospects of a claim. We regularly and successfully collaborate with clients’ existing counsel to achieve the best results for such clients.

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