Law no. 218 of the 31st of May, 1995 regulates the field of Italian inheritance law in the framework of international private law.
Succession rules are determined on the basis of the national law where the decedent was deemed habitually resident at the time of death.
Italian Inheritance legislation adopts the principle of “unity of inheritance”. This principle differs substantially from the one adopted in common law countries. It is based on a division between non-property assets and property assets:
- Non-property assets are governed by the law of the last domicile or last citizenship of the decedent.
- Property assets are governed by so-called, “lex rei sitae” (law of the country where the property is located).
One of the most important consequences of the aforementioned division is that, if a decedent’s estate includes properties located in different countries, the succession of each individual property could be regulated by the law of the country where the property is located.
Deferment to the law of another country
Italian rules on conflict of laws consider the possibility that the national law of a deceased foreigner might defer to the law of another country.
Here is a practical example: if a deceased English national resident in England owned property in Italy, the succession would be regulated by the law of England and Wales. However, in accordance with the conflict law of England and Wales, the law applicable to properties abroad should be the, “lex rei sitae (law of the country where the property is located). In this case, the Italian assets would be governed by Italian succession law.
According to EU Regulations introduced in 2015, the testator has the right to elect that succession of all assets be regulated by the law of the country in which the testator is habitually resident or by the country of the testator’s nationality. This choice of law has to be formally expressed in writing, in a Will and, may not be prejudicial to the rights that the Italian law provides for the so called, “legittimari” – members of family, resident in Italy when the testator dies who have the right to inherit a legally fixed part of the property of the deceased even if this is against the testator’s wishes.
Drafting an Italian Will is the best option
It is highly advisable to draft an Italian Will assisted by an experienced Italian inheritance lawyer in order to limit the consequences of “legal succession”. If the decedent was intestate, without a Will, Italian Inheritance law determines which relatives of the deceased have a right to inherit an estate (primarily the spouse, the legitimate and natural children, and any ascendants). Where no heirs can be traced, assets present in Italy are assigned to the Italian State.
If you would like more details about Italian succession law and procedures, we have produced a comprehensive Italian Inheritance Guide, which we hope you will find helpful. If you would like to discuss a specific case, we are here to help.