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What is a Biotestamento (Living Will)?

A living will, biotestamento, allows a person to make decisions about medical treatment

Italian living will biotestamento

Biotestamento legislation in Italy is in two parts.

The first, more general part, deals with giving informed consent on medical treatments. The second part of the law specifically provides for a number of DATs (disposizioni anticipate di trattamento).

What are biotestamento DATs?

DATs allow a person to indicate wishes in relation to medical treatments in the event s/he is no longer conscious due to an accident or illness.

Every adult over the age of 18 years old, of sound mind, who does not expect to be capable of self-determination in the future, may make use of DATs. By filling in the relevant paperwork, a person expresses his/her wishes relating to medical treatments. These include consent or refusal of artificial hydration and feeding.

DATs are legally binding on medical staff unless they are manifestly inappropriate or non-compliant with the patient’s current medical condition or new therapies have become available since the person signed DATs.

DATs must be in the form of a notarised deed or as a certified private instrument.

Informed consent

The law on Biotestamento protects a person’s right to life, health, dignity and self-determination. It stipulates that no medical treatment may start or continue without the patient’s freely given and informed consent. All patients have the right to know their health conditions. Furthermore, they must receive exhaustive, up to date and comprehensible information about the diagnosis, prognosis, benefits and risks of diagnostic tests and of prescribed medical treatments. In addition patients have a right to understand any alternative treatments available and the consequences connected with refusal of treatment.

Possible interruption of artificial feeding and hydration

Every adult, over the age of 18 years old, of mind, has the right to fully or partially refuse any treatment or to revoke consent for treatment at any time. Feeding and hydration are comparable to medical treatments. It is therefore possible to refuse them or request that they stop.

Refusal of treatment and conscientious objection by doctors

The patient has the right to refuse medical care. Doctors can however conscientiously object to this. Therefore, if a patient refuses medical care and a doctor deems this will cause death, a doctor is under no professional obligation to fulfil the patient’s wishes. The patient, however, may turn to another doctor working in the same hospital or healthcare facility.

Futile medical care and deep sedation

A doctor must endeavour to alleviate a patient’s suffering. Even if the patient has refused to grant or withdrawn his/her consent to medical care. Where there is a short life expectancy or imminent death prognosis, the doctor must, however, abstain from unreasonably persisting in dispensing medical care. In case of illnesses resistant to medical treatments, with the patient’s consent, the doctor may resort to continuous deep palliative sedation associated with pain therapy.

Psychological support

Should the patient decide to revoke or refuse medical care, the doctor must inform the patient of the consequences associated with this decision. The doctor must also inform the patient about any possible alternative treatments. In addition, medical staff should promote all actions to support the patient, including psychological support services.

Minors and disabled persons

In order that they can express their wishes, minors and disabled persons must receive all information in an appropriate manner. Informed consent on medical treatments for minors is contingent on consent or refusal by the parents or legal guardian. However, the patient’s wishes must also be considered.

Fiduciaries

A patient may also appoint someone to represent them in all relations with doctors and medical facilities.

Finally …

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

If you need any advice regarding living wills or last wills, we are here to help. Please get in touch with us.

 

 

Representation Rights in Italian Succession

Replacing an heir to an Italian inheritance

Rights of representation in Italian successionRepresentation rights pertain to a descendant replacing an ascendant. This happens if the latter is unable or unwilling to accept an inheritance or legacy.

Representation rights depend on two factors. Firstly, the ascendant, who does not wish, or is unable, to succeed, must have a legal entitlement to the inheritance in question. Secondly, in the case of testamentary succession, where the testator has made no other provisions which prevail over rights of representation.

How do Italian representation rights work?

Representation takes place whenever someone with an entitlement to an inheritance is unable or unwilling to inherit. Unwilling, means the beneficiary does not accept the inheritance or renounces it. Unable, means that the beneficiary dies before a succession process or is unfit to inherit or has lost the right to accept.

Through representation, legitimate or natural descendants replace the beneficiary unwilling or unable to succeed. If, for example, a child dies before his/her father, the father’s other children, and the predeceased child’s children are entitled to inherit the deceased child’s part of the inheritance. These heirs therefore receive the quota which their ascendant would have received.

Representation takes place:

-In a direct line, known as lineal consanguinity. This is where legitimate, legitimised, adopted or natural children become co-heirs.

-In collateral relationships, known as collateral consanguinity. These would be descendants of the deceased’s brothers and sisters who become co-heirs.

When are representation rights not applicable?

Representation does not apply unless the person replaced in succession is a descendant. For example, a sister of the deceased can make a representation but, not her husband. Likewise, representation cannot occur if, in testamentary succession, the testator has already indicated in a Will what should happen in the case an entitled beneficiary is unwilling or unable to accept an inheritance.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise with managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. We offer a full range of Italian inheritance law services. In addition, our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

For additional information about Italian succession and inheritance, you may find our Italian Succession Guide useful.

If we can be of assistance, please get in touch at: info@detulliolawfirm.com

Italian inheritance law

What are the principles of Italian inheritance law?

Law n.218, 31st of May 1995 regulates the field of Italian inheritance law in the framework of international private law.

The national law of the deceased party at the time of death determines succession rules.

The Italian legislator adopted the principle of “unity of inheritance”. This principle differs substantially from the one adopted in other countries. Notably common law countries. Unity of inheritance makes a distinction between between movable and immovable assets.

If the deceased was resident in Italy at the time of death, Italian Inheritance law applies to the deceased’s worldwide assets.

Whereas if the deceased lived outside Italy, Italian inheritance law is only applicable to assets in Italy.

Movable assets

The law of the last domicile or last citizenship of the deceased party is applicable to movable assets.

Immovable assets

The national law of the location of immovable assets is applicable. This is the so called, “lex rei sitae” (law of the country where the property is located). One of the most important consequences is that, if the deceased’s estate includes properties located in different states, the succession of each property is subject to the law of the country where the property is located.

The inheritance law that regulates  succession is the national law of the deceased at the time of death

Italian conflict of laws considers the possibility that the national law of a deceased foreign national might defer to the law of another country. Such deferment is however, only effective if the law of the third State accepts the deferment. For example, if an English citizen owned a property in Italy,  succession will be regulated by the law of England and Wales. However, according to  the conflict laws of England and Wales, the law applicable to overseas property is“lex rei sitae”. In other words, Italian inheritance law is applicable to the Italian property.

The testator has the right to submit his succession to the law of the country where he resides. Such choice has to be formally expressed in a will and shall not be prejudicial to the rights that the Italian law provides for, “legittimari” or forced heirs. These are close members of the family who have the right to receive a fixed part of the estate. Whether the deceased had a will or died intestate, legally, the deceased’s spouse or registered partner and children for example must receive a portion of the estate.

If you own property in Italy, it is advisable to make an Italian will

It is highly advisable to make an Italian will in order to limit the consequences of  “testamentary succession”. This also applies where the deceased has not left a will, in such case the Italian law determines which relatives of the deceased have a right to succeed (primarily the spouse, the legitimate and natural children, and the ascendants).

Where there are no heirs, Italian inheritance law assigns Italian assets to the Italian State.

EU Regulation 650/2012 simplifies cross-border inheritance matters

Also known as Brussels IV, EU Regulation 650/2012 came in to effect on 17th August, 2015. The regulation harmonises succession rules in participating EU States, which is all of them except Ireland and Denmark. In an effort to simplify cross-border succession, the EU adopted a single, unified connecting factor – habitual residence.

Brussels IV provides an opportunity to elect a country law to apply to your succession

Brussels IV allows individuals to make an election for the country of their nationality to apply to the devolution of their entire estate. Or, where individuals have multiple nationalities, a testator may choose to apply one of these nationalities.

Testators do however need to take action. If you own a property in Italy, you can nominate a country law in your will. This is known as a Choice of Law codicil.

If you are in the process of making or reviewing your will, it is therefore worth considering including a properly drafted Choice of Law codicil to apply to cross-border inheritance. You need to carefully consider matters such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights with respect to your estate.

Another benefit of Brussels IV is the European Certificate of Succession (ECS). This allows heirs, legatees, executors of wills and administrators of the estate to prove their status. The certificate is then valid in all other EU Member States.

Brussels IV also provides potential benefits for non-EU nationals

Interestingly, there are also potential benefits for non-EU nationals resident in an EU Member State. Again, you need to make an appropriate Choice of Law in your will. For example, US nationals could nominate US law to apply to the succession of their property in Italy. An Australian with property in Spain could nominate Australian law. A Canadian citizen with property in France could elect Canadian law, and so on.

Finally …

Cross-border inheritance law is a complex matter. We recommend you seek independent legal advice regarding your personal situation.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of experience managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. We are a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners. If we can be of assistance, please get in touch.

 

For more information about Italian succession and inheritance, you may find our Italian Succession Guide useful. You may also like to watch our info videos on the subject of Italian inheritance law.

 

Brussels IV: Cross-Border Inheritance Law

What is cross-border inheritance?

Cross-border inheritance laws determine which country handles an inheritance (known in legal terms as succession) and, which country’s national law will govern the inheritance. Cross-border inheritance applies if you live in a country which is not your country of origin or if you own assets in more than one country. Likewise, if you are a beneficiary or executor of a family member who lived in a different country from their country of origin when they died. EU Regulation 650/2012, also known as Brussels IV, came in to effect on 17th August 2015.

Brussels IV has implications for all nationals who reside in a participating EU Member State or who have a connection to a participating EU Member State.

Prior to the introduction of Brussels IV, each EU jurisdiction applied its own rules to govern the devolution of individuals’ property.

In order to determine which country laws would apply to an estate, EU states considered various connecting factors. These included domicile, residence, nationality or habitual residence. In addition, in some EU states, applicable succession law depended whether the assets were immovable (property and land) or movable (bank accounts, vehicles, furniture, jewellery and so on).

The fact that each jurisdiction applied different connecting factors often led to costly, protracted and complex conflicts of laws.

Brussels IV simplifies cross-border inheritance matters

Since the 17th August 2015 however, participating EU States have harmonised succession rules. In an effort to simplify cross-border succession, the EU adopted a single, unified connecting factor – habitual residence.

Therefore, the law of the country where the individual was habitually resident at the time of death is the default position. This, regardless of the location of assets in the estate and, whether the assets are immovable or movable.

For example, if you are a British national but you are habitually resident in Italy, Brussels IV means that instead of your assets passing under the laws of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, Italian inheritance law will apply to your worldwide assets.

Furthermore, your estate will be subject to Italian forced heirship rules. Forced heirship rules are similar to UK Intestacy rules. However, forced heirship is applicable even if there is a will. The key point is that Italian forced heirship rules take precedence over a will.

In practice, this means that close family members inherit the deceased’s property regardless of the contents of the deceased’s will. This can often be in preference to the deceased’s spouse or partner. Sometimes, this creates conflicts within families who are unfamiliar with forced heirship cultures. Particularly  if the deceased had children from previous relationships. According to Italian forced heirship rules, these children must also inherit a share of their deceased parent’s estate.

Brussels IV provides an opportunity to elect a country law to apply to your succession

Brussels IV allows individuals to make an election for the country of their nationality to apply to the devolution of their entire estate. Or, where individuals have multiple nationalities, a testator may choose to apply one of these nationalities.

Testators do however need to take action. If you own a property in Italy, you can nominate a country law in your will. This is known as a Choice of Law codicil.

If you are in the process of making or reviewing your will, it is therefore worth considering including a properly drafted Choice of Law codicil to apply to cross-border inheritance. You need to carefully consider matters such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights with respect to your estate.

Another benefit of Brussels IV is the European Certificate of Succession (ECS). This allows heirs, legatees, executors of wills and administrators of the estate to prove their status. The certificate is then valid in all other EU Member States.

Brussels IV also provides potential benefits for non-EU nationals

Interestingly, there are also potential benefits for non-EU nationals resident in an EU Member State. Again, you need to make an appropriate Choice of Law in your will. For example, US nationals could nominate US law to apply to the succession of their property in Italy. An Australian with property in Spain could nominate Australian law. A Canadian citizen with property in France could elect Canadian law, and so on.

Finally …

Cross-border inheritance law is a complex matter. We recommend you seek independent legal advice regarding your personal situation.

For more information about Italian succession and inheritance, you may find our Italian Succession Guide useful.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. We are a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners. If we can be of assistance, please get in touch.

EU Succession Rules Harmonise Cross-Border Inheritance

In 2015, the EU introduced new succession rules to simplify cross-border inheritance matters

To benefit from the new EU succession rules, overseas nationals with assets in an EU Member State need to take action in a will.

According to The European Commission some 450,000 cross-border successions occur in the EU each year. These are estimated to be worth in excess of €120 billion. Effective from August 17th 2015, to solve confusion and prevent disputes, the EU introduced new EU succession rules. These rules allow individuals across participating EU member states to choose which country jurisdiction to apply to the devolution of their estate.

Forced heirship

Many countries in the EU, including Italy, have laws governing ‘forced heirship’. Forced heirship rules are similar to UK Intestacy rules. However, forced heirship is applicable even if there is a will. The key point is that Italian forced heirship rules take precedence over a will.

In practice, this means that close family members inherit the deceased’s property regardless of the contents of the deceased’s will. This can often be in preference to the deceased’s spouse or partner. Sometimes, this creates conflicts within families who are unfamiliar with forced heirship cultures. Particularly  if the deceased had children from previous relationships. According to Italian forced heirship rules, these children must also inherit a share of their deceased parent’s estate.

EU Regulation 650/2012 is also known as Brussels IV

The UK did not opt into Brussels IV when it was still a member of the EU. However, UK nationals with assets in EU countries that adopted the changes, which is all of them except for Ireland and Denmark, can take advantage of Brussels IV.

Brussels IV allows any overseas national who owns property in a participating EU member state to choose either the law of the country of their habitual residence, or the law of their nationality to govern succession of their EU estate. Or, if they have multiple nationalities, they can choose one of their nationalities to govern succession.

Electing a country law provides a way to circumvent forced heirship laws.

EU succession rules allow you to elect a country law in your will

If for example you are a UK national habitually resident in England with a holiday home in Italy. You can now update your English will with a choice of law codicil. This would cover the Italian property with an election for the inheritance laws of England and Wales to apply to it. It means you don’t need a separate Italian will for the Italian  holiday home.

That said, it is highly advisable to have either a bilingual Italian will or an official Italian translation of your English will.  Preferably, the translated version would be in the hands of a solicitor or notary. This will make things easier, less time-consuming and costly in the long run for the executor of your estate.

Before taking action, it’s important to understand all the implications of the EU succession rules

Before making any changes to your will, it is important to understand Brussels IV and all its implications. For example, Brussels IV does not impact inheritance tax.

As previously mentioned, Brussels IV is applicable to all foreign property owners. However, if you are habitually resident in Italy it is essential that you make or update your will in Italian. In your Italian will, you should clearly state which country’s law you wish to elect. Otherwise, because you are resident in Italy, the laws of Italy will automatically apply when dealing with succession. Again, it is important to understand the Brussels IV regulation and its impact.

Interestingly, Brussels IV does not restrict the choice of law to EU nationals. For example, a US national with property in a participating EU Member State could elect for US law to apply to the succession of their property; an Australian could nominate Australian law; a Canadian, Canadian law, and so on.

Finally …

As ever, the key is in the planning. If you want freedom of choice, you have it. Just don’t leave it until it’s too late!

Cross-border inheritance law is a complex matter. We recommend you seek independent legal advice regarding your personal situation. For more information about Italian succession and inheritance, you may find our Italian Succession Guide useful.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. We are a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners. If you need advice, help or have any questions on cross-border inheritance matters, please get in touch.