1. Intestate succession
When a deceased person has neither left a will nor entered into an inheritance contract, the heirs are his/her spouse, kin and adoptees.
1.1. Inheritance Rights of Spouses
A spouse is entitled to inherit:
- equal share of the estate as the child if less than four children accept the estate;
- one fourth share of the estate if four and more children accept the estate;
- a half of the estate and furnishings of a dwelling if the deceased person has no children or adoptees, or neither of them intend to accept the estate;
- the entire estate if the deceased person has no children, adoptees, parents, full-blood siblings or their children, half-blood siblings or their children, or neither of them intend to accept the estate.
1.2. Inheritance Rights of Kin and Adoptees
The inheritance succession relating to the kin of the deceased is determined by classes of heirs, degrees and lines of kinship.
If the estate is accepted by an heir of a higher class, an heir of a lower class has no right to inherit.
There are four classes of heirs:
- first class – the descendants in the closest degree – children, grandchildren, etc., moreover, the children of the descendant who has predeceased the estate-leaver inherits his/her share, for example, if the estate-leaver survives his/her child, the children inherit the share of the deceased child – the grandchildren of the estate-leaver;
- second class – the ascendants in the closest degree – parents, grandparents, etc., as well as the full-blood siblings of the estate-leaver, and their children if the full-blood siblings have predeceased the estate-leaver;
- third class – half-blood siblings, and their children if the half-blood siblings have predeceased the estate-leaver;
- fourth class – collateral kin in the closest degree -regardless of whether it is full-blood or half-blood kinship.
When both descendants and ascendants, and heirs of the second class accept the estate, the descendants inherit a half of the estate, and the remaining heirs of the second class inherit the other half of the estate.
Descendants of a predeceased kin of the estate leaver, who have the inheritance right, inherit an equal share of the estate as their father or mother would inherit.
An adoptee and his/her descendants – children, grandchildren, etc. – inherit from the adopter and his/her kin. The descendants of the adoptee – children, grandchildren, etc., and the adopter and his/her kin have the right to inherit from the adoptee.
1.3. Degrees and Lines of Kinship
The closeness of kinship between two persons is also determined by the number of degrees and lines. Birth of a person creates a degree of kinship.
Direct lines or collateral lines refer to persons being descended from the one person – an ancestor or an ancestress. Relatives in direct line are parents, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. Relatives in collateral line are persons being descended from the one common third person – an ancestor or an ancestress.
A child and a father in direct line are first-degree relatives, while a grandchild and a grandparent are second-degree relatives, and a great grandchild and a great grandparent are third-degree relatives, etc. (Picture 1).
Brothers and sisters in collateral line are second-degree relatives, while a niece and her father’s sister are third-degree relatives, and cousins are fourth-degree relatives, etc. (Picture 2)
Degrees of Kinship:
Kārlis and Dace – second degree;
Ieva and Dace – third degree;
Ieva and Uldis – fourth degree.
2. Testamentary succession
When a deceased person has left a will, his/her estate or part thereof is distributed to the persons according to his/her will. If there is no will, the estate is distributed to the legal heirs.
The testator are free to distribute any part of his /her estate to any person, except for the restriction with respect to the persons entitled to the preferential share, i.e. the spouse and the descendants – children, grandchildren, etc., and if there are no descendants – the spouse and the ascendants in the closest degree, i.e. parents, grandparents, etc. have the right to receive their preferential shares of the estate – a half of the value of the estate which they would inherit by law.
The will is only valid if the testator has obtained a notarial certification or deposited the will with a notary public or an Orphan’s Court for safekeeping, or drawn and signed it by own hand.
3. Contractual inheritance
Contractual inheritance is established by an inheritance contract where the estate-leaver passes the estate or a part thereof to other person and the heir accepts it.
If the persons entitled to preferential shares – the spouse of the descendants (children, grandchildren, etc., and if there are no descendants – the spouse and the ascendants in the closest degree, i.e. parents, grandparents, etc.) of the estate-leaver have not waived their right to inherit, they are entitled to receive their preferential share of the estate – a half of the value of the estate which they would inherit by law.
The inheritance law has a mandatory form of a notarial deed. It may not be unilaterally revoked.