Identifying all the parties to reprivatisation proceedings can be difficult when the heirs of the former owners are spread around the world. Proving legal succession requires submission to the court of civil register documents, which may be registered in Poland for the purpose of Polish legal proceedings.
When beginning reprivatisation proceedings, all of the parties must first be identified, i.e. all of the former co-owners of the real estate and their heirs. This means that inheritance proceedings must first be conducted in order to show legal succession.
The fate of the families of former owners of properties in Poland before and after the Second World War varied. Some of them left the country and remained abroad permanently. Later generations of heirs had often never been to Poland. But in the course of proceedings here, the courts expect legal succession to be demonstrated using civil register deeds registered in Poland. If the given event (e.g. birth, marriage or death) did not occur in Poland, a deed cannot be prepared at the Polish civil register office. Then the only option is to localise the foreign civil register deed.
Persons who were born, married or died abroad may have their documents registered in Poland. This applies to Polish citizens as well as foreigners who need such registration for some reason. This practice is fairly common in Polish civil register offices, for one reason because of numerous inheritance or reprivatisation cases involving persons who lived or died abroad. Under the amended Civil Register Deeds Act which entered into force on 1 March 2015, the regulations concerning localisation were revised slightly.
Localisation, i.e. transcription of a foreign civil register deed, means entry of such document in the Polish civil register.
Such registration does not require Polish citizenship. However, the document sought to be registered must be recognised as a civil register deed in the country of issuance, it must be an official document, and it must not raise doubts as to its authenticity. This means that a document that raises doubts must also be certified by the competent authority of the country of issuance so that it can be legally used in another country.
The request for transcription may be filed with the director of the civil register office by the person who is the subject of the document or a person who demonstrates a legal or factual interest in making the transcription. The application must enclose the original foreign document, which must come from the country where the event occurred. Otherwise, under the amended rules, the director of the civil register office must deny the transcription.
The name of the person as referred to in the Polish civil register deed must exactly match that stated in the foreign document, without any alteration of the spelling. This means that diacritical marks such as “Ł” or “Ó” cannot be added or removed if that is not the way they are written in the foreign document.
But if the subject is a Polish citizen and holds other civil register deeds made in Poland showing a different spelling of the person’s name, the person may enclose a request to correct the spelling together with the Polish civil register deed. Then the director of the civil register office will conduct a technical substantive operation adjusting the spelling of the person’s name in the transcribed document to reflect Polish spelling rules.
The names of places where events occurred outside of Poland are stated following the spelling established by the Commission on Standardisation of Geographical Names Outside the Republic of Poland.
If a foreign document concerning a marriage does not contain a declaration concerning the surname to be used following the marriage or the surnames of children, the spouses may make such a declaration in the application for transcription, or before the director of the civil register office at any time.
If a request for transcription of a marriage certificate is filed by only one of the spouses, the other spouse will be notified by the director of the civil register office.
A notation of the transcription will be made in the civil register deed. Then the director of the civil register office who made the transcription will issue a complete copy of the civil register deed to the applicant.
If the applicant is unable to appear at the Polish civil register office, the application for transcription may be filed with the consul, who will then forward the documents to the director of the civil register office indicated by the applicant.
The transcription procedure is not complicated. It should be borne in mind, however, that the director of the civil register office will refuse to make the transcription if the foreign document is not a civil register deed and an official document in the country where it was issued, if the document was made in a country other than the one where the event occurred, or if transcribing the document would conflict with the public policy of the Republic of Poland.
Agata Górska, Reprivatisation Practice, Wardyński & Partners