How to die in Croatia: Part 4 (How to make and register a last will and testament)

A cemetery in Bedekovčina, Croatia

PUBLISHED: 14.7.2023.

If you have any type of asset or property, preparing a will is an important life step. Many move to Croatia focused solely on the amazing life laid out before them, and not so much about their possible death. That may seem blunt, but if you have ever thought, “I want to live the rest of my life in Croatia,” then it’s important to realize that this means you will probably die in Croatia too.

Welcome to the fourth installment of our How to Die in Croatia series focused completely on writing and registering a last will in Croatia, as well as the validity of your foreign will.

The laws governing last wills and inheritance vary by country. The rules in Croatia may not be the same as in your home country. Additionally, your foreign will may not be recognized in Croatia.

If you missed the first three parts of this series, you can learn what to prepare before dying in Croatia here. Then view what happens right after death here and how to organize and attend a funeral here.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to write and store a Croatian last will

Who should make a last will in Croatia

Having a last will is helpful to anyone you leave behind, but some people make the decision not to have one. Below are the cases when you should absolutely have a will:

  • If you own property
  • If you own a business
  • If you have no family in Croatia

Who can make a last will in Croatia?

A last will is called oporuka in Croatian. Oporuka is a testament by which an individual defines who is going to inherit their assets in case of their death. This individual who leaves a last will is called ostavitelj.

Everyone older than 16 who is capable of reasoning can make a last will in Croatia. A person is not capable of reasoning if they are unable to understand the meaning of their statement and its consequences or control their will enough to act in accordance with their knowledge. If a person loses the ability of reasoning after making a will, this won’t affect its validity.

If the above-mentioned requirement is not met, a last will won’t be valid. In addition, a will must be created according to Croatian law. Zakon o nasljeđivanju (Law on inheritance) defines a Croatian last will and is available here.

What can you define in a Croatian last will?

In a last will, you can mention all the assets you own at the moment and define one or multiple heirs. An heir is a person who will inherit all your assets or a proportional part. You can define a deputy heir who will inherit assets in case an heir dies, renounces the inheritance, or becomes unworthy to inherit.

You can specify conditions or deadlines that an heir must achieve to get the inheritance. Impossible, disallowed, immoral, incomprehensible, and contradictory conditions won’t be considered.

In addition, you can define one or more records called legata (legacy) that authorize a person (record holder, legatee) to demand a giving, doing, suffering, or passing on to them or to another person from an heir or another person for whose benefit a testamentary provision is made.

Another thing you can do is establish a foundation called zaklada. You can specify that a specific thing, right, or inheritance is used to achieve some permitted purpose. The foundation will be established if an heir meets special requirements.

Types of last wills in Croatia

There are 3 types of last will:

  • Privatna oporuka (private will)
  • Javna oporuka (public will)
  • Usmena oporuka (oral will)

Let’s explain how they differ from each other.

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The validity of a will is strictly bound by its form. This means that the form will dictate the requirements for validity.

Private will

A private will is a classical last will that can be created in 2 forms.

#1 Personal will

Vlastoručna oporuka (personal will) is the one you personally have written in your own handwriting and signed. It cannot be typed. If it is typed, then you need witnesses.

#2 Written will before witnesses

Pisana oporuka pred svjedocima (written will before witnesses) is signed in front of two witnesses at the same time. Anyone can write it, but you must confirm it is yours and sign it before the witnesses.

Witnesses must be adults who are neutral, have not been deprived of legal capacity, can read and write, and do not benefit personally from the will. They must also sign a will.

Public will

A public will is written with the help of authorized bodies – some of the following:

  • Judge of municipal court
  • Court adviser in a municipal court
  • Consular or diplomatic representative of Croatia abroad
  • Notary public

[Read: How to get something notarized]

Anyone can make this will. People who can’t read, don’t know how to read, or can’t sign a will can make only a public will.

If a person is unable to read a will written by an authorized person, an authorized person must read it to them in front of two witnesses. They must understand the language in which a will was written. A person must sign a will or approve it by a hand sign in front of the witnesses. Witnesses must also sign a will.

Oral will

An oral will can be written only in extraordinary circumstances. If you are unable to make any other type of will, you must leave an oral last will in front of two witnesses at the same time. They must be adults who have not been deprived of legal capacity. However, they don’t have to know how to and able to read and write.

Your witnesses must write down the content of a statement without delay and hand it over to a court or notary public for saving. An alternative is to repeat it orally in front of a court or notary public, stating when, where, and under which circumstances the testator expressed their last will.

Oral last wills expire 30 days after the extraordinary circumstances cease to exist.

What should you NOT include in a last will?

Do not divide inheritance in monetary value

If there are multiple heirs, you should divide assets between them in percentages and not monetary value. This is a safe way to ensure every heir will get a corresponding share since the market value of real estate and other assets constantly changes.

Here is an example. If you leave money to your first child and property to the second, the inheritance value may vary a lot over the years. If the property’s market value significantly decreases, the inheritance may not be properly distributed. One child could inherit much higher value than the other.

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Real estate

Wills involving property must be referenced in accordance with the land registry rules to avoid litigation between heirs.

Do not define conditional inheritance

A conditional inheritance or gift is considered one that is given only if a certain requirement is met. For example, you may condition to give a property or money to your heir only if they finish a faculty or get married.

[Read: How to get married in Croatia (if at least one spouse is a foreigner)]

Conditioning is often interpreted to encourage certain behavior, but it can result in completely the opposite. There are cases when a great opportunity shows up, so an heir wants to use it, but they can’t because of the promise. It is certainly not fair to tell others what to do with their lives.

Instead of making conditions, you can open a zaklada (foundation). Name a commissioner who will be in charge of the inheritance after you die. They may have discretion about the timing and amount of inheritance distribution. You can also specify the width of this discretion. This will encourage an heir to do something useful without obliging them to something uncomfortable.

Where do you keep your Croatian last will?

After you create the last will, it can be stored by:

  • You
  • Someone else
  • Court
  • Lawyer
  • Notary public
  • Consular or diplomatic representative of Croatia abroad
  • Legal person

[Read: Difference between legal and natural persons in Croatia]

If you decide to keep it at the court, notary public, or consular representative, they are obliged to accept it. They must notify the Croatian register of wills they received it. You or your attorney can also deliver the data.

A last will is valid regardless of whether it is stored in the register or somewhere else.

Croatian register of wills

The Hrvatski upisnik oporuka – HUO (Croatian register of wills) records data on creating, saving, and declaring wills. Although this register is public, your data is available only to you or your authorized person before your death.

If you want to record your last will in the register, submit a written request stating you are looking for a record.

A request must contain:

  • Your name
  • Your surname
  • Your date of birth
  • Your place and country of birth
  • Your OIB
  • Type of last will
  • Date of making a will
  • Date of storing a will
  • Place of storing a will – full address

You must also pay a fee in the amount of 13,27 euros. Payment information is available here.

[Read: How to pay bills (invoices) in Croatia]

Deliver a written request and proof of payment to:

Hrvatska javnobilježnička komora
za Hrvatski upisnik oporuka
Radnička cesta 34/II
10 000 Zagreb

View more information on the Croatian register of wills here.

How to revoke a Croatian last will

You can revoke your last will or a part of it anytime by:

  • Creating a statement in any form according to the law
  • Destroying a last will
  • Creating a new last will
  • Subsequent voluntary disposition of things or a right you intended to someone in a will

If you were married and a marriage terminated due to final judgments, testamentary dispositions in favor of your ex-spouse will be revoked unless you stated differently in a will.

Are foreign wills valid in Croatia?

If you have a will that has been prepared outside of Croatia, it will only be considered valid and recognized by Croatian authorities IF it was prepared in accordance with the Convention on International Wills. The same goes for someone with a Croatian will who died outside of Croatia.

An international last will must be made by you or an authorized person. It must be in a written form in any language and script by hand or any other way.

You must sign a will and declare it is yours and that you are familiar with its content in front of two witnesses and an authorized person. If you are unable to make a signature, you can ask another person to sign it. A proxy will note this in a will. Witnesses and a proxy must also sign it.

An authorized person will make a potvrda (confirmation) stating that a will meets the requirements of Croatian laws. Both of you will receive a copy.

Foreign last wills can also be registered with the Hrvatski upisnik oporuka – HUO (Croatian register of wills). If someone dies in Croatia and their last will isn’t registered, then a relative or friend must bring their foreign will to the municipal court or matični ured (registrar) for it to be considered.

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If the property outlined in a last will is not defined in accordance with Croatian law, then it will trigger a complex procedure of determining jurisdiction and which legal system has priority based on bilateral agreements and the national laws of both countries.

What if a Croatian last will is destroyed?

A last will may be destroyed by accident or action of another person, lost, hidden, or misplaced before or after the testator’s death without their knowledge.

In this case, a last will be valid if a person of interest proves it existed, that it was destroyed, lost, or hidden, and that it was drawn up according to the law. In addition, they must prove the content of the part of the will to which they refer.

What if you are a foreigner with no Croatian last will?

If you are a foreign citizen that has died on the territory of Croatia without a known will and have no next of kin in Croatia, Croatia will likely not go looking for your family abroad. In cases such as this, the property usually reverts to the state.

So, if you want to be sure that your belongings, assets, and property are sorted out per your desires, it is best that you prepare a will according to Croatian law. If you need help preparing a will, we have a vetted network of English-speaking Croatian lawyers who can prepare it and file it with the register.

Click here to get an introduction.

How to get help preparing a last will for Croatia

If you need help writing a last will and testament or need a legal expert to review a will for validity against Croatian law, our Expat in Croatia lawyer network can help.

Learn how we built our expat-vetted lawyer network here. View the last 10 reviews here or all reviews here.

We have English-speaking lawyers across Croatia that can write or review your last will to ensure:

  • All your questions are answered
  • The last will is binding and enforceable
  • Your interests are protected
  • Required substance articles are included

They can also register the will on the court for you. To get help with a last will, contact us using the below form:


View our series on how to die in Croatia

View our other related articles

Zakon o nasljeđivanju
Oporuka by e-Građani
Dvije stvari koje se ne stavljaju u oporuku by Željka Krmpotić

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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