Reserved Acceptance – Italian Inheritance

Debts on an Italian inheritance

Accepting an Italian inheritance also implies taking on responsibility for any debts the decedent leaves. Heirs risk having to paying any debts they inherit from their own pockets. For this reason, Italian law confers a choice of whether to renounce or accept an inheritance. There is however, also a third way to mitigate risks: reserved acceptance. To illustrate the concept of reserved acceptance, below we provide a brief case study on this matter.

Silvia and Eric Jones owned a property in Liguria and were resident in Italy for many years. Sadly, in close succession, Silvia and Eric died.

The Jones’ sons, Larry and Tom, got in touch with De Tullio Law Firm about their parents’ Italian Wills. They had concerns regarding what happens when heirs are unsure exactly what they are inheriting. Larry and Tom believed that their parents had a lot of debts. They worry they will have to pay these debts if they accept the inheritance.

Because heirs have the possibility to accept an inheritance using reserved acceptance – “beneficio d’inventario”, it means that Larry and Tom will only be liable to pay their parents’ debts on any sum they inherit.

What is reserved acceptance?

If you are an heir, but you are unsure whether the inheritance contains more liabilities than assets, you can use, “beneficio d’inventario” (reserved acceptance). This avoids any merger between your estate and the decedent’s. Thus you will not be liable to pay off the decedent’s debts with your own money.

If, for example, you inherit €10,000, compared to a debt of €20,000, you will only be liable to pay the debt on the sum you have inherited, namely the €10,000.

Reserved acceptance is however not a good idea if an heir is certain that liabilities outweigh inherited assets (unless the heir wishes to pay debts in order to honour the decedent’s memory). Where certainty of debt exists, renouncing the inheritance is a more appropriate solution.

It is worth mentioning that certain people have to accept an inheritance through “beneficio d’inventario”. These people include minors under the age of eighteen, people in care and legal entities, including the State, associations and foundations.

How does reserved acceptance work?

You need a notarial deed for reserved acceptance. Alternatively, you can make a declaration to a clerk of the court in the district where the decdent had their last domicile.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. Our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

If you are unsure about any aspect of an Italian inheritance, please contact us. We will be happy to provide you with more detailed information.

What is a Biotestamento (Living Will)?

A living will, biotestamento, allows a person to make decisions about medical treatment

Italian living will biotestamento

Biotestamento legislation in Italy is in two parts.

The first, more general part, deals with giving informed consent on medical treatments. The second part of the law specifically provides for a number of DATs (disposizioni anticipate di trattamento).

What are biotestamento DATs?

DATs allow a person to indicate wishes in relation to medical treatments in the event s/he is no longer conscious due to an accident or illness.

Every adult over the age of 18 years old, of sound mind, who does not expect to be capable of self-determination in the future, may make use of DATs. By filling in the relevant paperwork, a person expresses his/her wishes relating to medical treatments. These include consent or refusal of artificial hydration and feeding.

DATs are legally binding on medical staff unless they are manifestly inappropriate or non-compliant with the patient’s current medical condition or new therapies have become available since the person signed DATs.

DATs must be in the form of a notarised deed or as a certified private instrument.

Informed consent

The law on Biotestamento protects a person’s right to life, health, dignity and self-determination. It stipulates that no medical treatment may start or continue without the patient’s freely given and informed consent. All patients have the right to know their health conditions. Furthermore, they must receive exhaustive, up to date and comprehensible information about the diagnosis, prognosis, benefits and risks of diagnostic tests and of prescribed medical treatments. In addition patients have a right to understand any alternative treatments available and the consequences connected with refusal of treatment.

Possible interruption of artificial feeding and hydration

Every adult, over the age of 18 years old, of mind, has the right to fully or partially refuse any treatment or to revoke consent for treatment at any time. Feeding and hydration are comparable to medical treatments. It is therefore possible to refuse them or request that they stop.

Refusal of treatment and conscientious objection by doctors

The patient has the right to refuse medical care. Doctors can however conscientiously object to this. Therefore, if a patient refuses medical care and a doctor deems this will cause death, a doctor is under no professional obligation to fulfil the patient’s wishes. The patient, however, may turn to another doctor working in the same hospital or healthcare facility.

Futile medical care and deep sedation

A doctor must endeavour to alleviate a patient’s suffering. Even if the patient has refused to grant or withdrawn his/her consent to medical care. Where there is a short life expectancy or imminent death prognosis, the doctor must, however, abstain from unreasonably persisting in dispensing medical care. In case of illnesses resistant to medical treatments, with the patient’s consent, the doctor may resort to continuous deep palliative sedation associated with pain therapy.

Psychological support

Should the patient decide to revoke or refuse medical care, the doctor must inform the patient of the consequences associated with this decision. The doctor must also inform the patient about any possible alternative treatments. In addition, medical staff should promote all actions to support the patient, including psychological support services.

Minors and disabled persons

In order that they can express their wishes, minors and disabled persons must receive all information in an appropriate manner. Informed consent on medical treatments for minors is contingent on consent or refusal by the parents or legal guardian. However, the patient’s wishes must also be considered.

Fiduciaries

A patient may also appoint someone to represent them in all relations with doctors and medical facilities.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise with managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. In addition, our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

If you need any advice regarding living wills or last wills, we are here to help. Please get in touch with us.