Ukraine: Wills And Estates In Ukraine

Last Updated: 21 November 2012
Article by Alex Frishberg

"In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes," Benjamin Franklin once said. Setting aside the issue of mortality, we will focus on the question of inheritance – transfer of rights and duties of a late natural person (testator) to other persons or/and entities. Such transfer may be regulated by the testator in advance in the form of last will and testament; otherwise, it will be performed in accordance with the applicable inheritance law.


Assuming one has decided not to take chances and distribute their future legacy via testament, he or she should first of all be aware what exactly can and cannot be transferred to their heirs. In accordance with the governing provisions of the Civil Code of Ukraine, inheritance includes all rights and obligations of testator, belonging to them by the moment of their death.

Significantly, this provision presumes a certain range of rights which are impartible from the person of testator, terminate with their death and cannot, therefore, be inherited. These rights include, among others: personal non-property rights, like the right for life or freedom, right for participation in any institutions/organizations (if not otherwise determined by the founding documents of any separate institution/organization), right for reimbursement of damage caused by mutilation or other damage to health, right for pension, alimony, social aid or other legal payments, rights and obligations of a person as creditor/debtor, if such obligation is inseparably linked with person of the creditor/debtor, and cannot be performed by any other person.

Thus, a testator may bequeath to the successors all of his/her rights and obligations at the moment of drafting a testament, as well as rights and obligations that may arise in the future. A testament may be drafted for all inheritance or part thereof. As a consequence, if it defines only rights – the obligations will be divided between the heirs in proportion to their share of rights, and inheritance, not included into testament, will be transferred in accordance with the principles of the inheritance law. In this case, the heirs specified in testament may also receive a share of inheritance per law.

There are also specific cases of inheriting certain rights and obligations, which the law provides for separately. For instance, if a land plot is inherited, it is transferred to new owner(s) with preservation of its designation; heirs of a building or construction will inherit the property right or usage right for the land plot it is located on or necessary for its maintenance. If a land plot, other natural resources or premises are inherited, testator may also establish servitude thereon for other persons' needs. Part of joint common property (e.g., of a married couple) may be bequeathed, even prior to its definition and detachment. Salary, pension, scholarship, alimony, other social payments which were due to testator, but were not received during their life are paid to their family members, and in absence thereof are included into inheritance. Bank deposit may be inherited either by direct instruction in testament or by request of testator to the bank. Insurance payments are inherited on a general basis, except if the insured person (testator) appointed another person to receive this payment in case of their death; such payment will not be included into inheritance.

Certain rights and obligations do not terminate with the death and can be inherited, including rights and obligations under agreement for rent of dwelling with further buyout; right for compensation of damage in testator's contractual relations; right to collect forfeiture (fine, penalty) for non-performance by testator's debtor of their contractual obligations, which were awarded to testator by court during their life; compensation of moral damages awarded to testator by court during their life, etc. Obligations include reimbursement of any damage caused by testator, moral damage caused by testator (if obligation was awarded by court during testator's life), to pay forfeiture (fine, penalty) if such obligation was awarded by court during testator's life Notably, reimbursement for the above cases should be performed by the heirs within the limits of value of inherited property (court may even decrease amounts to be reimbursed if they appear disproportionate as compared to the value of inherited property).

Apart from rights and obligations received from the testator, the heirs are legally permitted to reimbursement of any expenses for support, treatment and funeral of testator, but not more than for 3 years prior to their death. A testator can also impose subsequent obligations upon the heirs, such as handling their personal papers, defining funeral place and form, as well as oblige them to perform certain actions.

A testator may also entrust one or several heirs with performance of certain actions in favor of a third person named in the testament, at the cost of inherited property. Such entrustment is called testament bequest (legatum). Subject of legatum may be an instruction to hand down to a third person (the bequeathed) a certain object or money. Both legal heirs and those who do not have a succession right may be bequeathed. A separate type of legatum is an obligation of heir who inherits a house (apartment, other residential building) to permit residence therein to another person. Such residence right remains with the subsequent change of building owner, it cannot be alienated, transferred to another person or further inherited. An heir bound by a testament bequest is obliged to perform it only within the limits of real value of the inherited property, having deducted testators' debts due from this property. Legatum is invalidated in case of death of the bequeathed prior to opening of inheritance.

One more way for testator to introduce additional obligations for heirs is to draft a testament with condition. Under such testament, emergence of inheritance right will depend on condition set by testator. This condition may be either connected with heir's actions or be independent from them. Possible circumstances to be set as condition in testament are: appearance of other heirs, residing at definite place, birth of child, education, etc. The law only states that such condition should not contradict the law or the society's moral values. Notably, the condition cannot be declared invalid by heirs on the grounds of their ignorance thereof or if occurrence of the conditioned circumstances does not depend on their will.


Heirs can be natural persons, alive at the moment of inheritance, or conceived before death of testator and born after the inheritance vests. Per testament, legal entities and other participants of civil relations (Ukrainian state and foreign states, Crimea, territorial entities) may also inherit rights and obligation from testator. Possible heirs may include any person(s), per testator's choice, regardless of family relations between them and testator, other participants of civil relations (as per above). Testator may exclude any of legal heirs from the testament without indicating reasons, except those entitled for obligatory part in inheritance by the law. If excluded person dies earlier than testator, then their heirs can become testator's heirs.

Right of inheritance arises at the date of opening of inheritance (which usually corresponds to the date of death or the date of legally declaring a person dead). Generally, the heirs are indicated in the testament. However, in several cases legal heirs (as a rule, relatives) may also be entitled to their part of inheritance. This usually occurs in absence of testament, as well as its invalidity. Next case is non-acceptance of inheritance by heirs per testament or their refusal to participate. Finally, if not all amount of inheritance is included into the testament, non-included part is inherited by legal heirs in accordance with general procedure (even if they are simultaneously heirs per testament).

Right for obligatory participation in inheritance belongs to the following categories of potential heirs: minor, underage, disabled children, disabled widow(er), disabled parents of a late person – they inherit half of what they would have received by law if there was no testament, regardless of testament instructions (this inheritance may be only decreased by court, taking into account relations between heirs and testator, as well as other essential circumstances). As a rule, obligatory part of inheritance includes furniture and things of residential use.


Ukrainian legislation provides for obligatory written form of testament, with indication of place and date of its drafting and personal signature of the testator. In separate cases, when the testator cannot sign the document personally due to physical limitations, it can be signed by another person in the testator's presence.

As a rule, a testament should be certified by notary. In isolated cases, this procedure can also be performed by other civil officers, including chief medical officer of a hospital, elderly care or nursing institution, if testator is currently staying under supervision of such institution, captain of a sea or river vessel under Ukrainian flag, for testator sailing in such vessel, head of a penitentiary institution, if testament is drafted by a prisoner, etc.

Testator is entitled to cancel or amend his or her testament anytime during their life. Each new testament cancels the previous in whole or, where possible, only the contradicting part. If the new testament is declared invalid, the previous one is not renewed, except for the cases when invalidity is declared upon the grounds of temporary inability of a person to realize their actions or per reasons of duress. Amendment and/or cancellation of testament is performed in person, and the same requirements apply to certification of amendments as to certification of testament itself.

The law guards the secrecy of testaments. It requires that notary (or other officer who certified the testament), witnesses and the person who signed the testament instead of testator, not to disclose the fact of drafting testament, its contents, amendment or cancellation. The testator has a right to a secret testament – it is submitted to the notary in a sealed and personally signed envelope. The notary leaves certification mark on the envelope, without familiarizing with its contents.

Contents of testament should be set in such a way that no misunderstandings arise per opening of inheritance. Interpretation of testator's will is performed upon opening of inheritance. Invalidity of testament may be claimed per the following reasons: absence of legal ground for testator to draft such testament, breach of form and/or certification requirements, an interested person's claim to the court that the intention expressed in testament was not free and did not correspond to real will of testator. Invalidity of part of testament does not affect its other provisions.

Testator may appoint testament executor – a natural person with full civil capacity or a legal entity. If there are several heirs in testament, one of them may be appointed executor. If there's only one heir per testament, some other person may be appointed. Executor's functions are:

(i) guarding testated property;

(ii) informing heirs, the bequeathed and creditors re: opening of inheritance;

(iii) demanding performance of their liabilities from testator's debtors;

(iv) managing inheritance till its full acceptance by heirs;

(v) ensuring receipt of due part by each of the testated;

(vi) ensuring receipt of due part by the entitled for obligatory part in inheritance;

(vii) ensuring performance of actions conditioned in testament.

In conclusion, last will and testament is the best way to ensure that your funds, property and personal effects will be distributed after your death according to your wishes. Failure to have a testament at the time of your death leaves your estate wide open to conflicts, problems, disputes over property, etc. We strongly recommend retaining a reputable attorney to prepare the final testament.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions