Italian inheritance law dates back to the Roman Law tradition. It is based on the principle that the deceased’s close family members merit special protection. This partially limits the right of the testator to dispose of assets entirely as he/she wishes.
Testamentary succession can be defined as the assignment of hereditary assets, the estate, of a deceased testator in compliance with the decisions of the testator as set out in an Italian Will. A Will is a legal document drafted and signed by the decedent through which disposal of an estate is determined following death.
In the case of foreign Wills, Italian law provides that they must be authenticated by an Italian Public Notary before probate can be undertaken.
Managing documents drafted in a foreign language and covered by a foreign jurisdiction in Italy can raise a number of difficulties. In fact, a notary will not publish or legalise documents drafted in a foreign language unless duly translated in Italian. This will most likely have to be done by a sworn translator, whose costs could be substantially higher than drafting an Italian Will in the first place.
Drafting a Will in Italian minimises the risk of conflicts among heirs following the death of the testator. It also ensures that the Italian authorities have a clear and direct understanding of the legal framework.
Following the death of a testator with an Italian Will, the Will is registered and published by the competent Italian authorities.
As mentioned above, one of the principles of Italian legal succession is the protection of the family. Whether you die with or without a Will, some heirs cannot be excluded from the succession. These heirs are known as forced heirs. A part of the deceased’s assets, known as a reserved quota must be assigned to forced heirs.
Italian Civil Code determines exactly the inheritance quota available to the testator, that is to say what is the quota that he/she can dispose of without any limitation.
Italian law reserves a quota of the inheritance to forced heirs, who are:
- a) Legitimate, natural, adopted children
- b) Married partner
- c) Legitimate ascendants (only in absence of children)
Outlined below, is the reserved quota and the available quota dependent on relationship to the deceased:
Notwithstanding what has been stated, it is also worth mentioning that in cases of non-Italian citizens, the situation could also enforce different legal provisions. The introduction of an EU Regulation known as Brussels IV may also impact your Will. It is important that you seek legal advice to determine how to handle your assets in a Will. You should seek advice from a lawyer specialised in cross-border inheritance and testamentary succession to provide assistance in derogating the above mentioned regulations.
For more comprehensive information about Italian inheritance and testamentary succession, we have prepared a free guide to support you.