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Dont throw away your Greek inheritance.

Your aunt dies in Chicago.She went back and forth from Greece during her life. She never married. You never forgot her name day though,feeling sorry that she lived alone in a modest apartment.A friend of the family tells you in Church that she may have had some real esate and a bank account in Greece. You just dont know. The next day after the funeral, you get a call from your Greek cousins from Patras saying that they will send you a Greek paper to sign,nothing important so,you know,they can take care of some legal technicalities. Since time is of the essence,you have to do this right away! What do you do? 

This is why, when i lecture to Greek American groups aroung the country, I often title my speech:" The bad cousin and the evil uncle."  The above fact pattern ,with a hundred different variations, has been repeated in my practice of 25 years doing US-Greek inheritance work, at least one thousand times. You see, you just cannot sign the Greek papers the relatives sent you. Those are Greek powers of attorney(pleroxousia) and they are among the most dangerous legal instruments in the world.  Depending on the language they have slipped in there,(and believe me not even those fluent in Greek can understand or spot Greek legalese)if they take your Greek inhertance and give it to their son for 1 Euro there is little you can do in the Greek courts. Tell them"thank you for your kind help but i will get my own lawyer to advise me. After all, if you need my signature there must be something I should know".  If they get mad at that, then you know something is up.Why would they get mad if you are simply foolish enough to throw away your money on your own legal counsel?  I have seen horrible, nightmare scenarios in such cases.  Let me describe one ,for example. This comes from real life cases. You see when we do a title search for you,we find out that your aunt had 3 apartments and a store front in Patras and a lot in Lagonissi worth 800,000 Euros. Immediatelly your uncle and cousins in Greece, seeing that they cannot take the whole thing (our Athens office called them to introduce ourselves and they found out that they are not going to "win the inheritance lottery") (Those greedy Americans wont just give it to us-how did they wise up darn it?!) decide they will be generous and split the properties/inheritance fifty-fifty--because "thats what Greek law says!".   Except that Greek law doesnt apply(as you are advised by your ethical and competent favorite US-Greek law firm!) because your aunt was domiciled in the US at the time of her death--so Us law applies. And , a search reveals a Cook County Will which leaves everything to your favorite nephew-you! We then, after revewing the US Will, advise you that we can get it recognized in Greece ;probate fully your Greek inheritance; handle all deed registrations and Greece and the US--all of which does not require you to go to Greece even once-and without you having to deal with the Greek relatives.  Now,  I must tell you that when your lovely family members find out about this, their "heads will explode" and there are many legal tricks and filings they will try. It doesnt matter, we have seen them and dealt with them all.(In future blog entries i will go into these in detail-including the mysteriously found just after death, handwritten Greek Will!!!)  Please dont misread my cautionary words as a social commentary on the loyalty of Greek relatives. I am a lawyer and I am paid to be paranoid. Most Greeks who are our friends and family members are honest,whether they live in Greece or the US. But statistically and historically, i have seen variations of the above scenario far,far too often to ignore. In God we trust, all others we verify!!!  

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Hahalis & Kounoupis, P.C. - Greek Law Group
Phone: 610-628-1336
Toll Free: 877-509-4333
Fax: 610-691-8418

U.S. Offices:
20 East Broad Street 
Bethlehem, PA 18018
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1015 New Durham Road
Edison, NJ 08817
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18 Valaoritou Street
4th Floor
Athens, 10671
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10 Ermou Street
Thessaloniki, 54625
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Hahalis & Kounoupis, P.C. - Greek Law Group