My clients often engage me when they need assistance with searching for Wills in Italy. As a matter of fact, it sometimes happens that I receive instructions to administer an estate where the executors and/or beneficiaries are unable to find a Will. They may have a copy but cannot find the original, or they may have been told that a Will was made, but they are unable to locate it amongst the deceased’s belongings.
Probate cannot be started until the original and latest Will is found. If no Will comes to light, the decedent may be declared intestate, in which case the State will decide how the estate is divided.
Forms of Wills in Italy
First things first, there are three main forms of Will in Italy:
-A Formal Will (Testamento Pubblico), drawn up by a Public Notary on the testator’s instructions. Witnessed and deposited with a Public Notary until the testator’s death.
-A Holographic Will (Testamento Olografo), hand written, dated and signed by the testator. No witnesses required. May be deposited with a lawyer, Notary Public or kept by the testator until the testator’s death.
-A Sealed or Secret Will (Testamento Segreto), hand written by the testator, placed in a sealed envelope and deposited with a Public Notary until the testator’s death.
All three types of Will must be written in Italian to comply with Italian civil code. To avoid potentially significant difficulties following death of a testator, we recommend engaging a lawyer to assist you with all Italian Will formalities and legal requirements when making an Italian Will.
If it is deemed that someone had a Formal or Holographic Will, which was deposited with a Public Notary, a request with a death certificate attached can be submitted to the District Chamber of Notaries (Consiglio Notarile distrettuale), who will be forward a search request to all Public Notaries within a district.
The General Will Registry Bureau
It is also advisable to submit a request to the Notary Archives Registry Office, in charge of keeping deeds and Wills deposited by the notaries who have ceased business. The General Will Registry Bureau (Registro Generale dei Testamenti), whose headquarters are at the Main Office of the Notary Archives (Ufficio Centrale degli Archivi Notarili) in Rome, can also be consulted.
The General Will Registry Bureau provides the possibility to find out if the deceased had a Will or not, whether in Italy or abroad. The request for the issuance of a decedent’s Will can also be submitted through the Bureau, to the relevant entity of a foreign country which has adhered to the International Basel Convention. Other than Italy, the countries which have signed the Basel Convention are: Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine.
According to the formalities connected with Wills in Italy, interested parties may request a subscription certificate, in the name of the deceased, from the General Will Registry Bureau, as well as the reference to the district notary archive where the Will was deposited, in case the notary has ceased business.
The following records are held in the General Will Registry:
- Formal Wills;
- Sealed /Secret Wills;
- Special Wills;
- Holographic Wills which have been formally deposited with a Public Notary;
- Memorandum of publication of Holographic Wills, whether or not deposited with a Public Notary;
- Withdrawal of Holographic and Sealed / Secret Wills, which were formally deposited at a Public Notary’s office;
- Suspension of previous arrangements caused by death, providing some had been made by means of a new Will.
If you need any assistance with searching for Wills in Italy, please let us know.