How Is Property Divided in A Divorce According To Italian Law?

How is Italian property divided in a divorce?

This article explores Italian matrimonial regimes, or marital property systems, and how property is divided in a divorce.

Matrimonial regimes in Italy

“Regime patrimoniale dei coniugi” in Italian.

how is property divided in a divorce

Because matrimonial regimes regulate financial affairs between couples, matrimonial regimes may become a significant aspect in a divorce settlement. This is particularly relevant if one or both spouses are not Italian nationals and own immovable assets such as real estate in Italy.

In Italy there are two main matrimonial regimes: the community of assets “comunione dei beni” and separation of assets “separazione dei beni”.

Community of assets

This regime means spouses own all purchases they make during the course of their marriage in common.

The community of assets regime excludes certain personal items from common ownership. These include assets that spouses owned prior to marriage and gifts or inheritance assets the couple acquires during the marriage.

The main aspect of the community of assets regime is that even if the other spouse was absent at the time of the purchase, both spouses own an equal share of the purchase. Of course, there are exceptions. Each case is different and requires examination.

Separation of assets

If the couple, prior to or during the marriage, adopted a separation of assets regime, each spouse is the sole owner of any purchase they make.

The only commonly owned assets will be those the couple specifically purchases together.

In order for a separation of assets matrimonial regime to be legally valid, a couple needs to put a written agreement in place.

If a marriage is subject to Italian law, couples can draw up an agreement when they marry or at a later stage.

Foreign couples may make an agreement when they purchase a property in Italy – should they wish the asset to be in the name of only one spouse.

Default position

Italy has a Civil Law system, whereby codified statutes predominate. Italian family law provides that a community of assets is the default matrimonial regime.

For foreign nationals, although a marriage is subject to the spouses’ national law, the Italian law may still be relevant. In particular when it comes to purchasing and owning property in Italy.

About 80 countries have Common Law systems which defer to country laws of the property’s location. Therefore, your national law may defer to Italian law when it comes to property purchases and matrimonial regimes.

What is the matrimonial regime applicable to your assets in Italy?

As previously mentioned, unless spouses make a written agreement, the default regime applicable to purchases during the marriage is the community of assets.

To legally adopt a separation of assets matrimonial regime, spouses must make a notarised deed.

Unless you have a notarised deed, doubts and issues can arise during divorce proceedings. In this case the default community of assets regime would apply.

A separation of assets clause in a deed of sale for a property signed by only one spouse is not sufficient to determine a matrimonial regime from a legal point of view.

Without a notarised deed regarding your matrimonial regime, if only one spouse signed a property deed of sale, Italian law will still consider the property as belonging to both spouses.

Generally speaking, a community of assets regime does not impact inherited or gifted properties. These remain in the name of the sole spouse who inherited them. However, there may be exceptions depending on the exact wording of any gift deed or will.

Finally …

Division of Italian assets between spouses in the event of divorce or separation depends on matrimonial regimes. It is important to understand if you own the property in common with your spouse. If you need assistance or would like to discuss your personal situation. please get in touch with us.

 

You may also be interested in How to protect inheritance from divorce

How To Protect An Italian Inheritance from Divorce

How to protect an inheritance from divorce and/or separation

How to protect inheritance from divorce

Separation and divorce are two of the most painful events in life. The decision to legally end a relationship can set off a long and difficult process. The upheavals and emotional challenges can be enormous. On top of this, complex legal and financial issues with short and long term implications need careful management. One aspect to consider when deciding to separate and/or divorce is how to protect an Italian inheritance.

An Italian inheritance might comprise property, movable and immovable assets and savings. Italian inheritance law specifically guarantees inheritance to so-called, “forced heirs”.

A consultation with a lawyer can provide an idea of the likely legal and financial outcomes of your situation. Generally, lawyers will provide a free initial consultation for this purpose. It is therefore worth seeking professional advice at an early stage.

While separation and divorce is a family crisis, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of how to protect an Italian inheritance in order to safeguard and guarantee children’s rights.

Indeed, children have the right to support from both their parents. Italian Constitution and Article 147 of the Italian Civil Code states that children have this right until they reach the age of 18.

Matrimonial regimes

In May 2015, Italy introduced the so-called, ‘quickie divorce law’. This cut the amount of time it can take to get a divorce from three years to as little as six months.

There can be important consequences on estate-related issues in divorce and/or separation. These can vary according to the matrimonial financial regime the couple chose at the time of, or during, their marriage.

Couples in Italy may choose between a matrimonial regime of either community of assets, comunione dei beni, or separation of assets, separazione dei beni.

If couples do not have a notarised deed stipulating they have chosen a separazione dei beni regime, Italian law takes the view that the matrimonial regime in place is the default comunione dei beni matrimonial regime.

Expat couples married elsewhere but resident in Italy are regarded as being married according to the comunione dei beni regime. This means a couple jointly owns all assets they acquire during their marriage. In the event of a divorce, each spouse will therefore receive an equal share of these assets.

However, there are exceptions. For instance, if a partner acquired a property prior to the marriage, or received a property after the marriage as a gift or an inheritance, this would not necessarily be split equally in the case of a divorce. It is therefore important to understand your matrimonial regime and check property deeds to see who actually owns what.

If you need more information on the topic, please get in touch.

Italian Estate Tax

Italian estate tax (imposta di successione)

Italian estate taxAlthough the government abolished Italian estate tax in 2001, it subsequently reintroduced it in 2006.

Italian estate tax is therefore applicable to succession cases prior to October 25, 2001 and those from October 3, 2006 onwards.

In order to comply with the fiscal rules of inheritance law, heirs need in the first instance to file a statement of succession with the Italian tax authorities.

Who is liable for Italian estate tax?

If the deceased was resident in Italy at the time of death, Italian Inheritance Tax applies to the deceased’s worldwide assets. However, if the deceased lived outside Italy, Italian estate tax is only payable on assets located in Italy.

Of course, in order to prevent issues with double taxation, Italy has a number of cross border taxation arrangements in place, including with the UK and the USA.

Unity of inheritance

Italian inheritance law is based on the principle of ‘unity of inheritance’. To clarify this, the law of the country of last domicile deals with any movable assets. Movable assets could, for instance be furniture, cars, jewellery, works of art, bank and post office current accounts, money, investments such as shares, bonds, trust and managed funds.

On the other hand, immovable assets are dealt with according to the law of the country wherever they are located. Examples of immovable assets include houses, shops, buildings, agricultural or building land.

How does Italian estate tax work?

While Italian estate tax appears less onerous, in terms of payments, compared to some other EU Member States, it is nevertheless complex.

In effect, Italian estate tax applies to the net value of the deceased’s estate. This therefore, includes not only movable but also immovable assets.

In addition, equity in non-family businesses and shareholdings in companies are taxable. However, there are exceptions to this.

Indeed, because the range of taxable assets is so broad, it is important to review the balance of ownership of your assets in the above mentioned categories. Above all, if you have children or you stand to inherit assets from an Italian estate.

It may moreover, also be worthwhile considering property ownership changes to protect your assets. In addition, some careful estate planning for the transfer of assets within the family is crucial.

Italian estate Tax on property

As far as a property is concerned, it is important to bear in mind the income value of Italian real estate property. This is calculated on the capitalised cadastral annuity.

In order to ascertain the cadastral value of a property, re-evaluation coefficients are as follows.

– Agricultural land: €112,50

– Buildings – Cat. C/1 and E: € 42,84

– Buildings – Cat. A/10 and D: €63,00

– Buildings – Cat. B: €147,00

– Other buildings: €126,00

– Habitable buildings, primary residences and relative appurtenances: €115,50

Depending on the relationship to the deceased and the category of assets, tax is applied proportionally to individual heirs or legatees.

The table below summarises quotas and exemptions from inheritance tax relating to Italian real estate property:

BENEFICIARY INHERITANCE TAX ASSET CATEGORY REGISTRATION TAX CADASTRAL TAX
Spouse and/or Children Value of assets & rights: 4%

Below €1 million value, tax-exempt.

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Siblings Value of assets & rights: 6%

Below €1 million value, tax-exempt.

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

4th Degree Relative Value of assets & rights: 6%
  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Other Value of assets & rights: 8%

 

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Additionally, in accordance with the Italian Disabilities Act, the threshold from which disabled beneficiaries are liable for inheritance tax is €1.5 million.

Furthermore, quotas mentioned in the table above also apply to lifetime use (usufruct) of a property title deed.

What is excluded from Italian inheritance tax?

As previously mentioned, according to Italian inheritance tax law, certain categories of assets are exempt from Italian inheritance tax. These include government bonds and unit linked whole of life insurance policies. Additionally, shareholdings in family businesses and certain charitable donations are exempt.

EU regulations

Choice of law

In addition to Italian inheritance law, it is also worth mentioning EU succession regulations introduced in 2015.  In brief, these regulations provide testators with an opportunity to amend the Italian principle of unity of inheritance.

As a result of EU succession regulations, non-Italians who are resident in Italy can make a choice of law in their will. In other words, a testator can stipulate that they want the law of their own country, or nationality, to govern their Italian-based assets.

Furthermore, EU regulations do not restrict the choice of law to EU nationals resident in Italy. For example, a US national could nominate US law to apply to the succession of their property in Italy.

It should however be mentioned, that nominating a country law needs careful consideration. Given that a testator needs to take in to account matters such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights with respect to an estate, it would be wise to seek advice before acting.

European Certificate of Succession

In order to facilitate cross border successions, an additional benefit of the EU succession regulations is the European Certificate of Succession. While this document is issued by the relevant authority dealing with the succession, heirs, legatees, executors and administrators of an estate can use it to prove their status and thereby exercise their rights or powers in other EU Member States.

Finally …

As can be seen, Italian inheritance is a complex matter. While there are actions that you can take to mitigate the impact of Italian inheritance tax law on estates, because each case is different, you should seek professional support and advice.

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.

Please contact us if you have any estate tax questions or if would like to discuss your situation.

You may also be interested in Inheritance Law and Taxes

Review of EU and Italian Divorce Law

Living in a cross-cultural relationship?

Review of EU and Italian Divorce LawWe often receive questions about Italian Divorce Law at our law firm. Many people nowadays are part of a cross-cultural relationship and, for the most part it is an enriching and beautiful experience. However, it can also be difficult to manage if the relationship flounders.

When it comes to separation and divorce, it is wise to speak to experts, both for emotional and legal support. Regrettably, international separations and divorces are becoming more common.

Obviously, people don’t enter in to married life thinking about where the best location for a divorce would be. However, where couples choose to divorce can have a major impact on parties’ financial health, children and many other matters. Therefore getting it right is very important. Delays in decision-making can result in devastating outcomes.

Changes to Italian divorce law

In May, 2015 Italy introduced the so-called, ‘quickie divorce’ law. This cut the amount of time it takes to get a divorce from three years to as little as six months in uncontested cases and a year in contested cases.

While the new law still retains a two-step process – separation and divorce – there are three important changes.

  1. Separazione consensuale – consensual separation. This is where both partners request a separation. The period of legal separation is now six months. Following the six-month separation, which begins once the couple has applied for separation in court, the couple may file for divorce.
  2. Separazione giudiziale – judicial separation. This is where one partner requests a divorce. It could also apply if the couple contest issues such as child custody, division of assets (including property) or alimony arrangements. Parties have to wait 12 months to file for divorce following a court application for separation. If the procedure of separation is still pending following the 12-month period, perhaps for example because parties cannot agree on financial and other aspects of the separation, each party will be entitled to file for divorce. In this case, the judge appointed to rule on the judicial separation will merge and handle the processes for separation and divorce.
  3. The new law is applicable to separation cases that are currently pending. This means those who have already filed for separation benefit from shorter divorce procedure times.

EU divorce law

The EU Divorce Law Pact or, Rome III Regulation. This aims to implement enhanced cooperation in the area of applicable law for divorce and legal separation.  Essentially, EU divorce law allows expat couples in Italy to choose either the divorce laws of Italy, or those of the country where the couple previously lived or the country of their nationality. This also applies to and mixed marriage couples, where one partner is Italian and the other is not. The decision regarding applicable country law needs to be made before divorce proceedings begin.

15 countries including Italy adopted the Rome III Regulation. Italian law and courts govern divorce procedures if a couple does not stipulate an applicable country law and are ordinarily resident in Italy. This would also apply where one partner is resident in Italy and starts proceedings here. However, one of the partners can return to their home country for six months or more and start proceedings there before Italian proceedings begin.

Matrimonial property regimes

Another aspect to consider in the choice of divorce law is matrimonial regimes. For example, English courts often split a couple’s assets 50/50. Italian courts look more closely at what belongs to whom. This is because when they get married, couples in Italy may choose between a matrimonial regime of shared ownership, comunione dei beni or separate ownership separazione dei beni of their worldly goods in the event of divorce or death.

Unless otherwise stipulated in an agreement, at the start of a marriage or at any time during a marriage, comunione dei beni is the default matrimonial regime. Italian law considers expat couples married elsewhere but resident in Italy married according to this regime. The comunione dei beni regime regards property acquired by the couple during their marriage to be jointly owned. Regardless of whether couples purchased assets individually or together if the couple divorces, assets will be split 50/50.

In 2019, two new EU regulations entered into force. These regulations determine homogeneous rules applicable to property regimes in cross border situations. In effect, these regulations determine jurisdiction and applicable law for matrimonial and registered partnership property regimes. In case of divorce, separation or the death of one of the spouses or partners, the regulations also need consideration.

Exceptions

There are however exceptions. For example, if a partner purchased property prior to the marriage this would belong solely to the partner in the event of a divorce. Likewise if a partner acquires property after the marriage as a gift or an inheritance. The choice of matrimonial regimes can therefore have an important impact on choice of applicable law in the event of separation and divorce.

Consider the case of an English couple who married in London 12 years ago. The wife inherited a significant sum of money as well as a house in Italy from her parents. Four years ago, the husband persuaded the wife that they should move to Italy to live in the property she had inherited. Then, 12 months later, the husband moved back to the UK and filed for divorce. The English court gave the husband 50% of all the couples’ assets. The Italian courts would have treated the inherited assets as belonging solely to the wife.

Finally …

Each case is different. We recognise that so many issues need consideration and decisions need to be made at what is a very stressful time. Which applicable law to choose requires careful consideration. An experienced lawyer familiar with cross-border divorce law and the complexities which make these divorces so difficult will be able to guide you. If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.

 

Married Couples And Registered Partners in Italy

Economic Relationships: Married Couples And Registered Partners Resident in ItalyRegime patrimoniale coniugale

This article deals with the issue of the choice of law ruling the economic relationship between foreign married couples and registered partners in Italy.

Italian law no. 218 of 1995 contains an amendment reforming international private law determining applicable law to matrimonial regimes in Italy.

Regarding the economic relationship between married couples, if they have the same nationality, the national law of the two partners is applicable.

Where spouses have two different nationalities, the law of the State where the marriage took place is applicable.

In Italy, couples may choose between two matrimonial regimes: regime of community of assets “comunità dei beni” and separation of assets “separazione dei beni”.

Couples can make a notarised agreement when they marry or at a later stage to determine which regime is applicable. However, in the absence of a choice, Italian family law provides that the community of assets regime is the default.

Italian property purchases: foreign married couples and registered partners in Italy

Non-Italian couples may make an agreement when they purchase a property in Italy – should they wish the ownership of the property to be in the name of only one spouse.

Decisions regarding matrimonial regimes can play a key role in the event of divorce or death. They can therefore have important and far-reaching consequences.

Pursuant to article 159 of the Italian Civil Code, in the absence of a notarised agreement between spouses, the default matrimonial regime will be that of community of assets.

Married couples and registered partners. Who owns what in a community of assets?

A community of assets regime means that both partners own certain assets jointly. These include:

– Purchases made ​​by the spouses together or separately during their marriage.

– Businesses opened and managed by both spouses after their marriage.

– Profits generated by a business belonging to either spouse.

Certain items of personal property are not included in the Italian community of assets regime:

– Goods belonging to each spouse prior to their marriage.

– Property acquired during the marriage through a personal gift or inheritance.

– Personal items used by spouses.

– Goods or finances obtained as compensation for damages.

A community of assets regime means a property belongs to a couple in equal parts …

Whereas, if the couple opts for a separation of assets regime, it is possible to register a property in the name of just one spouse or partner.

In order to do this, a couple can choose a separation of assets regime at the time of, or after their marriage. This means foreign nationals married elsewhere, but resident in Italy can decide, at any time during their marriage or registered partnership, to elect to have their economic relationship governed by Italian law.

If foreign married couples resident in Italy decide to regulate their economic affairs according to Italian law, they will have to do it through a written agreement in the form of a public deed in the presence of an Italian public notary.

Finally …

Before purchasing a property in Italy, it is worth considering your economic relationship. Each case depends on personal circumstances.

Buying an Italian property represents a major investment for most people. To ensure you protect your investment, you should therefore always seek independent legal advice. Why not get in touch with us to discuss your situation?

You may also be interested in Cross Border Property rules: Marriages & Partnerships

 

What Is An Avvocato? Frequently Asked Questions

What does avvocato mean?

What is an Avvocato?

The Italian word, avvocato, has three equivalent terms in English: lawyer, solicitor or attorney.

How long does it take to become an avvocato?

The path to becoming an avvocato in Italy involves several years of study and internships.

Firstly, future lawyers need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in law, (Laurea in Scienze Giuridiche), which takes three years. Secondly, to proceed along the path towards practising law, students require a two-year post-graduate degree (Laurea Specialistica in Giurisprudenza) or, a further five-year Master’s Degree (Laurea a ciclo unico Magistrale in Giurisprudenza).

Thirdly, after attaining the aforementioned qualifications, an Italian attorney needs to complete a two-year internship at an established law firm.

Finally, in order to practice law, an avvocato must pass the Italian Bar Exam. After registering with the Italian Law Society (Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati), Italian lawyers can practice Italian law wherever they choose in Italy.

What is an Italian attorney’s scope of legal practice?

The legal competencies of qualified  Italian solicitors are wide-ranging. They comprise civil, criminal, labour, bankruptcy, financial, administrative, inheritance and succession cases as well as courtroom trials and appeals.

Is an Italian avvocato subject to a code of conduct?

Yes. A strict ethical code of conduct governs the Italian attorney’s performance of their duties. First of all, Italian attorneys must base their conduct on respect for integrity, dignity and decorum. Failure to comply with the ethical code of conduct leads to disciplinary proceedings.

The legal profession demands honesty and integrity. It is not permissible for an Italian attorney to start a legal action or take part in a proceeding, which may be construed acting in bad faith.

The Italian legal code of conduct safeguards the client; an Italian attorney has a duty of care and loyalty towards a client. An Italian attorney behaving contrary to clients’ interests, or taking on a case that they are not competent to conduct, would be a breach of the code of conduct.

Does client confidentiality exist in the Italian legal profession?

Yes. Another fundamental duty for an Italian attorney is confidentiality. On the one hand this regards the provision of services to a client. On the other hand it pertains to any information given to a lawyer by the client, or which becomes known to the lawyer. Confidentiality remains valid for information about former clients, or where the attorney, despite knowing the details of a case, does not agree to take on a case.

The relationship between an Italian attorney and a client is fundamentally based on trust; an attorney must defend a client’s interests as well as possible within the framework of legal representation and in compliance with the law and the ethical principles of the legal code of conduct.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have extensive knowledge and experience of Italian and international law. For over 55 years, we have been providing expert legal services throughout Italy. Whatever your legal need in Italy, get in touch with us for a free consultation.

You may also be interested in De Tullio Law Firm: celebrating 55 years in practice.

 

Partition of an Italian estate. Inheritance Law

How does the partition of an Italian Estate work?

Partition of an Italian estateA testator’s estate comprises assets and rights. Whenever there is more than one heir in an Italian will, this triggers a condition of joint-ownership of rights and duties.

The co-heirs receive the estate in accordance with their inheritance quota.

This quota may be in  accordance with a will or, where the deceased was intestate, in accordance with Italian inheritance law. Beneficiaries inherit not only assets but also take on any liabilities of the testator.

Partition of an Italian estate refers to the division of assets and liabilities between beneficiaries

At this point, it should be noted that each co-heir has the right to request the partition of an estate at any time following the death of the deceased, unless otherwise stipulated in a will.

As a result, all co-heirs, or their successors (legatees), must take part in the partition of an estate. Failure of one or more beneficiaries to participate, will render their rights invalid. As a matter of fact, absentee co-heirs cannot later rectify this.

According to Italian legislation, the partition of an estate can be executed through three methods:

1. Amicable partition

In order to convert co-heirs’ legitimate rights to a quota of the estate into rights on single assets from the estate, an amicable partition can be made. This would be in the form of a contract. The contract then ensures that the value of the assets individually assigned (known as de facto quotas) equate to the value of the joint ownership quotas.

2. Judicial partition

Should co-heirs disagree on the the partition of an estate, each of them can refer it to the courts. A judgment regarding the partition of an estate may include a number of options. For example:

INVENTORY OF THE INHERITED ESTATE

This includes all the assets and/or liabilities left to the co-heirs by the deceased.

APPRAISAL OF ASSETS

This determines the market value of assets. The testator may have nominated a person or organisation in a will to conduct the appraisal. No estimates are necessary if assets belong in the same asset category. However, in other cases, the estimate of individual assets is essential in order to make portions of value corresponding to the quota of each co-heir in the decedent’s will.  If the decedent died intestate, apportionment is according to Italian inheritance law.

POSSIBLE SALE OF INDIVISIBLE ASSETS

Prior to the partition of an Italian estate, it may be necessary to sell real estate property or to assign property to one of the co-heirs in return for payment. Co-heirs would then receive the proceeds to make up their share of inheritance.

3. Testamentary partition

A testator can stipulate in a will, either the portions to assign to each co-heir, or can simply lay down terms in order to set quotas.

Because the effective value of a testator’s assets may not cover the quotas stipulated in a will and co-heirs dispute the partition of an estate, they have the same recourse: amicable or judicial partition.

Finally …

As a co-heir, it may be difficult for you to manage succession procedures or participate in the partition of the estate in Italy. You can confer a Power of Attorney to sign inheritance documents and paperwork. A specialist Italian inheritance lawyer can assist you and will work in your best interests.

You might find De Tullio Law Firm’s comprehensive Guide to Italian Inheritance useful. If you would like to discuss your situation, you can get in touch with us for a free consultation.

You may also beinterested in Accepting an inheritance with the benefit of inventory in Italy

What are my parental rights in Italy?

Following the recent introduction of civil unions into Italian national law our thoughts turn to the parental rights of married and particularly unmarried couples in Italy.parental rights

Italian politician, Monica Cirinnà has told us that the rights of those in a civil union will be much the same as those of married couples.

This of course cannot be so straightforward when it comes to children, and we still await clarity on the case for adoption between civil partners. As it stands, adoption for same sex couples is still off the cards.

For those living in or moving to Italy it is important to understand parental rights. That way, as a married or unmarried couple with children you can be in the best position to make decisions or provisions for the future. Read more

Italian and EU International Divorces

Italian and EU Divorce Law

Across much of the European Union, marriages between couples of different nationalities, are on the rise. In addition, the number of married couples living as expats in another EU country is increasing. Unfortunately, this means that international separations and divorces are becoming more common.

Obviously, people don’t enter into married life thinking about where the best location for a divorce would be; married couples are unlikely to be interested in thinking about this while they remain happy together, and couples may not be able to agree on the appropriate jurisdiction if they are about to be or are already separated. However, where couples choose to divorce can have a major impact on both parties’ financial health, so getting it right is crucial. Read more

Italian real estate attorneys and Italian inheritance attorneys