Italian Law of Filiation: A Family Law Case Study

Italian law of filiation: the legal rights of children born in and out of wedlock

De Tullio Law Firm provided legal expertise regarding the Italian law of filiation at the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The parties involved in the case about paternity and inheritance rights emigrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s. Before ruling on the case, the court needed to understand the Italian law of filiation.

Case Background

In this case study, although we have disguised names and circumstances, we outline the main aspects of the Italian law of filiation that The Supreme Court of Western Australia took into consideration when assessing whether or not Giovanna Rossi, the plaintiff, was a legitimate child of the late Giuseppe Rossi and was therefore entitled to claim a share of her father’s inheritance.

The plaintiff

The plaintiff, Giovanna, issued proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia regarding inheritance of her father’s estate. Following his divorce from Giovanna’s mother, Mr. Rossi re-married and had other children.

Giovanna was born in 1950. Her father and mother were not married at the time. They did however get married a couple of years after Giovanna’s birth.

In Italy, at the time of Giovanna’s birth, it was illegal for fathers to recognise any children born out of wedlock. Giovanna’s birth certificate therefore gives her mother’s maiden name, Bianchi.

However, Giovanna’s birth certificate contains a note stipulating that Giovanna is the legitimate daughter of Mr. Giuseppe Rossi. The birth certificate annotation follows the marriage of Mr. Giuseppe Rossi and Ms. Sofia Bianchi in 1953.

The defendants

The defendants in this case are Giovanna’s half-siblings. They are the children from Mr. Giuseppe Rossi’s second marriage. The defendants dispute Giovanna’s legal rights as an heir and beneficiary to Mr. Rossi’s estate because Giovanna was an “illegitimate” child. They maintain that the subsequent marriage between Mr. Rossi and Ms. Bianchi did not automatically give Giovanna the status of a legitimate child.

What rights does the Italian law of filiation provide?

Firstly, the Italian law of filiation has abolished the old distinction between children born in and out of wedlock.

Constitutional law has driven important changes to legislation regarding filiation with the aim of guaranteeing equality. The consequence of this legislative process has been to stipulate a single status for all children.

Reform of Italian filiation law

Filiation law reform, Riforma della filiazione, modified the Italian Civil Code – in particular, Italian Law no. 219 of 10 December 2012.  This law states that illegitimate children – since reforms in 1975 to Italian family law, known as, “natural children” – must not be subject to any discrimination because of the circumstances of their birth.

All children are equal in the eyes of the Italian law

Both legitimate and natural children therefore have the same status: figlio. All children have equal rights and parents have a responsibility toward their offspring. A child has the right to receive care, education, assistance in case of need and a share of any inheritance.

In other words, the Italian Civil Code, as well as other Italian legislation referring to the relationships between parent and child, only permits the use of the word “child” (figlio/figlia). There is no longer any distinction such as, il/legitimate, natural or adopted.

The provision of a uniform status of filiation means that all children have the same rights to receive care, education, assistance in case of need and a share of any inheritance and parents are responsible for providing these rights. In addition, the express intention of Law 219 of 2012 extends parental responsibilities to parents’ relatives.

2012 filiation reforms are retroactive

The Filiation Reform (Law 201/2012) is applicable to all people, not only those born after a certain date. This means that the abolition of the distinction between legitimate and natural/illegitimate children is retroactive. In other words, it is applicable to parent-child relationships prior to the Law 219/2012 entering into force on 1st January 2013.

A major effect of the abolition of the distinction between natural children and legitimate children is that natural children have gained an equal right to succeed to their parents. They are entitled not only to inherit a share of their “natural” parents’ estate but also to inherit from other relatives of their parents.

How was Italian law different before reforms?

Prior to reforms, there was a huge difference between the status of legitimate and illegitimate children in Italy. Illegitimate children had none of the legal rights afforded to legitimate children.

When Giovanna was born in the 1950s, there were only two ways to legitimate children born out of wedlock and give them the status of figlio. Either the parents could marry after the birth or, the father could make a formal  statement to a notary, declaring that he was the father of the child.

Legittimato quale figlio

Giovanna’s birth certificate contains the phrase “legittimata quale figlia”. This means that following the marriage of her natural parents, Giovanna acquired the status of child. She went from the condition of being illegitimate to a condition where she was recognised as having the status of a legitimate child with all the accompanying rights of being a child.

This was in accordance with applicable Civil Code and legislation in force at that time. Also, as previously mentioned, following reforms to the Italian law of filiation, there is no longer any distinction in Italy between children born in or out of wedlock.

Case outcome

According to the Italian Law, Giovanna Rossi does have the status of a legitimate child of Mr. Giuseppe Rossi, both under current applicable Italian law, as well as under legislation applicable at the time of Mr. Rossi’s marriage to Ms. Bianchi.

The event of a marriage between her natural parents gave Giovanna the status of child and, legitimated her as a child of Giuseppe Rossi and Sofia Bianchi in accordance with legislation in force since February 1955.

The Italian Family Law reform of 2012 abolished any distinction between legitimate children and natural/illegitimate children.

The Supreme Court of Western Australia therefore judged that Giovanna was indeed the late Mr. Rossi’s legitimate child and, as such, was entitled to receive a portion of his estate as her inheritance.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm we provide legal advice and support in all fields of Italian law. Our particular specialties are Italian and cross border property, inheritance and family matters. If we can be of assistance, please get in touch.

You may also be interested in Partition of Property among Family Members.
You may also like to watch our info videos on the subject of Italian inheritance law.

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.

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.

You may also like to watch our info videos.

How To Protect An Italian Inheritance from Divorce

How to protect an inheritance from divorce and/or separation

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.

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 like to watch our info videos.

EU Property Regime Rules. Marriages & Partnerships

EU property regime rules for cross border marriages and registered partnerships

According to the European Commission, there are about 16 million couples in the EU living in a “cross border situation”. These international couples are citizens and/or, own properties in different EU Member States. Until 2019, no EU property regime rules existed for cross border marriages and registered partnerships.

On 23rd June 2016, Members of the European Parliament approved two regulations. These regulations determine homogeneous rules applicable to property regimes in cross border situations. Council Regulation (EU 2016/1103) determines rules for married couples. Council Regulation (EU 2016/1104) determines rules for civil partnerships. These two regulations entered into force on January 29th, 2019.

The rules 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 objective of the regulations is to increase foreseeability and legal certainty regarding jurisdiction and applicable law in the matter of property regimes of international couples. In addition, the regulations harmonise international private law rules between EU countries.

EU property regime rules determine the applicable law in the event of divorce or death

EU Regulations bring broader legal certainty and end parallel and/or conflicting proceedings in the various EU Member States.

The regulations do not affect the underlying institutions of marriage and civil partnerships. These remain matters defined by the national laws of the EU Member States.

Regulations explicitly regulate two cases of jurisdictional governance. These are the death of one of the spouses or registered partners, and divorce.

In the case of death, the court in a competent Member State, pursuant to EU Succession Regulations, will have jurisdiction in matters arising from the couple’s property.

In the case of divorce, the court called upon to rule on an application of divorce will have jurisdiction, provided the couple agrees. Couples may also reach an agreement regarding jurisdiction during court proceedings.

In cases other than the above mentioned, and in cases where spouses fail to reach agreement, jurisdiction lies with the courts of the Member State where couples are habitually resident. Failing that, jurisdiction lies with Member State where couples were last habitually resident, insofar as one of the spouses or partners is still considered resident there. Otherwise, jurisdiction lies with the courts of the Member State of the respondent’s habitual residence and failing that, the state of the couple’s common nationality at the time of court proceedings. The parties may also agree to give jurisdiction to a Member State whose law is applicable to the matter. Should the respondent take the matter to court, that court will have jurisdiction. This would be irrespective of which court has jurisdiction according to the aforementioned rules.

Choice of law rules is applicable to marriages and registered civil partnerships

The regulations allow spouses and registered partners to choose which country law shall apply in the event of divorce or death. Marriages and partnerships registered prior to 29th January 2019 are subject to national choice of law regulations.

The regulations are applicable in 18 EU Member States that joined the enhanced cooperation initiative on this matter, namely: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Luxembourg, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Sweden and Finland.

The EU members that did not adopt the Regulation are The Republic of Ireland and Denmark. These countries continue to use the choice of law rules of their national laws.

Regulations pertaining to applicable law are universal in scope. Thus, the law of any state, including states that are not members of the EU, may be found to be applicable. The law provided by the regulations is applicable to all assets, irrespective of  location.

Finally …

Divorce or death of a spouse or registered partner is hugely emotional wherever you live. Having to work through matters related to inheritance and asset separation can add to the pain. The complications multiply when couples live or own properties in different countries. We understand the legal complexities that international couples can face in Italy. If you need advice, we are here to help.

 

You may also be interested in Review of EU and Italian Divorce Law. You may also find our info videos useful.

 

Italian Divorce Law And EU Regulations

Living in a cross-cultural relationship?

We 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.

You may also like to watch our info videos.

Married Couples And Registered Partners in Italy

Regime 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.

You may also like to watch our info videos.

 

What Is An Avvocato? Frequently Asked Questions

What does avvocato mean?

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

How long does it take to become an avvocato?

What is an Avvocato?

Left: Giandomenico De Tullio. Managing Partner. Right Giovanni De Tullio. Founding Partner. De Tullio Law Firm.

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 avvocato 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 a qualified avvocato are wide-ranging. They comprise all areas of the law: civil, criminal, labour, bankruptcy, financial, administrative, inheritance and succession cases. In addition an avvocato handles court trials and appeals.

Is an Italian avvocato subject to a code of conduct?

A strict ethical code of conduct governs an Italian avvocato and the performance of their duties. Firstly, Italian attorneys must base their conduct on respect for integrity, dignity and decorum. Failure to comply with this 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 as acting in bad faith.

Secondly, the Italian legal code of conduct safeguards the client. An Italian avvocato 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 this 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?

In this article we explore the partition of an Italian estate. A 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

Estate Planning And Tax. Buying An Italian Property

Tax and estate planning matters. Think long term when buying property in Italy


Owning a second home in your home country presents administrative and logistical challenges. However, at least that second home is within linguistic, tax and legal frameworks that are familiar to you. 
The challenges escalate with a foreign property. Italy is a popular choice for second home ownership. In recent years foreign ownership of Italian property has increased as people take advantage of favourable property prices.  If you are considering buying a property in Italy, you should carefully think through Italian estate planning aspects. In particular tax and succession matters.

You should always seek independent tax and estate planning advice, from experts in Italy as well and at home.

There are a number of tax issues to consider in Italy and in your home country. Any of the following may trigger a tax event in either or both your home country and Italy:

– Disposal of property or investments to fund the purchase of an Italian property.

– Transferring money to Italy.

– Associated property purchase tax (local equivalent of closing costs / stamp duty).

– Local service taxes on the running of the property.

– Income tax from letting the property.

– Estate and transfer taxes on the death of an owner.

– Capital Gains Tax on the transfer or sale of the property.

Income Tax

If you are resident outside of Italy, you may be liable to pay income tax on all income, regardless of where this arises.  For example, UK residents who generate an income by letting an Italian property will be subject to UK income tax on the rental income. There will also be a liability to pay tax in Italy. There may be some double taxation relief available. However, it is essential that prior to purchasing a second home and commencing any rental activity that you seek advice both at home and in Italy.

Capital Gains Tax

Foreign nationals who own a property in Italy may be subject to Capital Gains Tax at home. If the Italian property is not the owner’s main residence, when the owner sells or transfers the property title, there may be a tax payment on any profit. There will also be a liability in Italy.

Inheritance Tax

Individuals who are domiciled, for example, in the UK are subject to UK Inheritance Tax (“IHT”) on their worldwide assets in the event of their death. UK IHT does not therefore just apply in respect of assets physically located in the UK if an individual is domiciled in the UK. In addition, Italian Estate Tax will apply to the entire net value of the decedent’s estate, including movable and immovable assets in Italy.

Italian estate tax rates depend on the relationship of the beneficiary with the deceased. Spouse and children: 4% of the estate value, with an exemption of EUR 1 million for each beneficiary. Siblings and close relatives (up to fourth degree of kinship): 6%. Each sibling is entitled to an allowance of EUR 100,000. Any other beneficiary: 8%, with no allowances.

There may be some double taxation relief available. Because each case is different, it is crucial to take advice before purchasing a property in Italy.

Estate planning. Make an Italian will

It is essential to take advice on the succession implications of owning a property in Italy at an early stage. Buyers should consult an Italian solicitor and a solicitor in their home country. A specialist estate planning lawyer will have experience of managing all aspects which arise with cross-border assets or estates.

Generally, succession to a property is subject to the law of the country where that property is physically situated. However, a 2015 EU Regulation known as, “Brussels IV”, makes it possible to nominate a jurisdiction to rule your succession. Even if your home country is not part of the EU, Brussels IV is still applicable to non-EU nationals who own assets in Italy.

It is wise to make a separate will in Italian, to ensure that your property passes to your chosen beneficiaries after your death in the most tax efficient way.

Based on Roman law, Italy has, “Forced Heirship” rules. These govern what portion close family members must receive from an Italian estate. Seeking professional advice is therefore essential to understand how these rules apply to your specific circumstances.

Even though having an Italian will is not a legal requirement, it can save costs, time and misunderstandings for those you leave behind. In addition, your local solicitor will wish to confirm that your home country will takes precedence in Italy. 

Finally …

People put off estate planning because they think they do not own enough, they are not old enough, it will be costly or confusing, they will have plenty of time to do it later, they do not know where to begin or who can help them, or they just do not want to think about it.

Estate planning should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. You should review and update your plan as your family and circumstances change. This would include when you make an international investment.

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

Please contact us if you are buying or already own an Italian property and have any questions about your estate planning.

 

For more in depth information about Italian succession, you might find our Succession Guide useful.

 

Parental Rights in Italy – Italian Family Law

In Italy, children have the right to a personal relationship with both parents

It is important to understand parental rights in Italy for those living or moving to the country. That way, if you have children, you can be in the best position to make decisions for the future.

All EU countries recognise that children have the right to a personal relationship and direct contact with both parents. This also applies if the parents live in different countries.

What about parental rights in Italy in the event of divorce or separation?

It is important to determine whether the children will live exclusively with one parent or alternate between parents.

If both parents live in Italy but are unable to reach an agreement, you may have to take the matter to court. A judge will then decide on living arrangements and parental rights. The court’s decision will consider the child’s best interests and determine your custody rights. It will also decide where the child resides.

In situations involving more than one country where, for example the parents live in different countries, the courts responsible for handling cases of parental rights are those in the country where the child is habitually resident. You can agree with your spouse that the court ruling on your divorce should also rule on parental rights.

Where the child has more than one nationality, the law of the country with which the child has the closest connection applies. Under section 19 of of Act No 1995/218, if the child has more than one nationality and one of these nationalities is Italian, the Italian nationality takes precedence. It is the nationality of the child at the point the case goes to court that decides this.

Parental rights in Italy: 3 types of child custody

1. Exclusive custody – one parent has sole custody and makes all day-to-day parenting decisions. The other parent has limited responsibilities.

2. Joint custody – gives both parents equal parental responsibilities and custody. However, in the interests of the child or children, they are likely to live predominately with one parent. In theory, this approach is the best for a child as they have access to both parents.

3. Alternating custody – means both parents can exercise their parental responsibilities within predetermined custodial time periods given. (This form of custody is rare).

Cases where the judge grants exclusive custody to one of the parents have become rare in Italy. Sole custody would require proof that it would be in the best interests of the child.  However, even in cases of sole custody, both parents will need to consult on major decisions relating to the child. Moreover, in cases where joint custody is applicable to disputing parents, visiting arrangements and a timetable will be established. Similar to exclusive custody cases, these arrangements give the parent that does not reside with the child or children limited access rights.

Marriage and registered civil partnerships

in order to determine parental rights in Italy, married or registered couples, will have been legally separated for six months and must have filed for divorce. They will need to go to court regarding both their divorce settlement and arrangements for their child or children. Following divorce, the child will live according to care arrangements determined by the court.

Unmarried couples and partners

In the case of unmarried couples, or estranged married couples, there is no requirement to go to court. Parents can simply agree between themselves on parental responsibilities and living arrangements. However, we strongly recommend seeking legal advice to formalise and record arrangements. Within the EU, a married father has the same rights as the mother. Where a couple cannot agree arrangements between themselves, the court in the child’s country of habitual residence determines parental rights and responsibilities.

In theory, both parents have equal parental rights and responsibilities for their child or children. In practice, however, where there is no legitimate reason otherwise, the mother’s home is more likely to be the main residence of the child.

Same-sex couples

On the subject of same-sex couples, a 2013 Italian Supreme Court decision (601) granted sole custody of a child from an earlier marriage to a mother living with another woman. The court declared that, “there is no scientific certainty proving that a minor cannot grow up in a balanced way within a same sex couple”. 

Parental rights in Italy in adoption cases

The Italian law has always stipulated that a couple must be married in order to adopt a child. Italian law 184/1983 governs adoption and foster care. The law, in principle, only permits married couples, who must be of the opposite sex, to adopt. According to the law, there are no restrictions on foster care. In a limited number of situations, the law provides for adoption in certain cases by a single person. In addition, some courts have interpreted this to include the possibility of unmarried couples adopting a stepchild.

From an inheritance point of view, no distinction is made between legitimate, natural and adopted children – all have equal rights.

Finally …

If you would like to discuss your personal situation, you can reach us here for a free consultation.

 

You may also be interested in Italian divorce law and EU regulations.

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