Posts

Searching for An Italian Will

Italian WillWhere there’s a will …

Clients often engage the De Tullio law Firm team when they need assistance with winding-up an estate in Italy. Occasionally, we receive instruction to administer an estate where executors or beneficiaries have been searching for an Italian will, but are unable to locate it.

Sometimes, there may be a copy, but heirs cannot find the original. For example, the deceased may have told relatives that they had a will but, the heirs cannot find it amongst the deceased’s belongings.

Winding-up an Italian estate cannot begin until we find the original version of a last will. If a will doesn’t come to light, the decedent is intestate, in which case the State will decide how to divide the estate.

Types of Italian will

In Italy, we have three main types of will. The simplest type of will is a Holographic Will (Testamento Olografo). For this to be legally valid, the testator must hand write the document, date and sign it. No witnesses are necessary. It can either be deposited with a lawyer, notary or, be kept by the testator.

Then there is a Formal Will (Testamento Pubblico). A notary draws up the will upon the testator’s instructions. It requires a witness and is deposited with a notary until the testator’s death.

Thirdly, a Sealed or Secret Will (Testamento Segreto). This is hand written by the testator, placed in a sealed envelope and deposited with a notary until the testator’s death.

All three types of will must be in Italian to comply with Italian civil code. To avoid potentially significant difficulties following death of a testator, we recommend engaging a lawyer to assist you. In addition, we advise getting your will translated into your own language. This will avoid any potentially costly misinterpretation of your wishes later on.

Where to start searching for an Italian will?

If you believe someone had a will deposited with a notary, you can submit a request accompanied by the death certificate to the District Chamber of Notaries (Consiglio Notarile distrettuale). This organisation will forward a search request to all notaries within the area where the deceased was resident.

Searching for an Italian will at the General Will Registry

It is also advisable to submit a request to the General Will Register. This is part of the main notarial archive office which retains deeds and Wills deposited by notaries who have ceased business operations.

The General Will Registry Bureau (Registro Generale dei Testamenti) headquarters are at the Main Office of the Notary Archives (Ufficio Centrale degli Archivi Notarili) in Rome.

Through the General Will Registry Bureau you can find out if the deceased had a will in Italy or abroad. The Bureau can submit a request for a decedent’s will to the relevant authorities abroad if they are signatories to the International Basel Convention. Other than Italy, the countries which have signed the Basel Convention are: Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine.

The General Will Registry holds the following records:

– Formal wills

– Sealed / Secret wills

– Holographic wills, formally held by a notary

– Publication of Holographic Wills, whether or not deposited with a notary

– Withdrawal of all types of will, formally deposited with a notary

– Suspension of previous arrangements by means of a new will

Finally …

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.

If you need any assistance searching for an Italian Will, please get in touch.

If you are looking for further information about the Italian inheritance process, you might find our comprehensive Italian Inheritance Guide helpful.

 

What Is An Avvocato? Frequently Asked Questions

What does avvocato mean?

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

Leasehold or Emphyteusis in Italy: What You Should Know

Emphyteusis is a type of leasehold arrangement

Leasehold or Emphyteusis in ItalyThe closest Common Law legal term to Emphyteusis is a leasehold.

The landlord retains the ownership of property. However, a tenant has the right to use it for a contractually agreed period of time. In this type of leasehold or Emphyteutical arrangement, the tenant must both maintain and improve the property.

Leasehold or Emphyteusis is a contractual arrangement which has its roots in Roman Law. It formed part of the feudal system and has connections to the agricultural economy. Farmers had the possibility to cultivate land thereby sustaining themselves. In return, farmers paid an annual ground rent or canon in money and or in kind.

Italian leasehold or Emphyteusis arrangements are applicable to all types of physical assets

Contractual arrangements exist between two parties. On the one hand, the Dominium Directum, the freehold owner the (dominus) or landlord of the property. And, on the other hand, the Dominium Utile – the tenant (emphyteuta) who has the right to use property on a leasehold basis.

Emphyteusis is applicable to both land and buildings, including villas and apartments.

For the duration of an Emphyteusis contract, where land is involved, the tenant has the right to alter the surface of the land. This includes ploughing up pastures to cultivate a crop or plant trees.

Where the arrangement concerns buildings, a tenant may alter these. However, alterations must not cause any deterioration of the building. Therefore, if the tenant wishes to build an extension or add to existing structures, the tenant may do so.

The contract between the ‘landlord’ and the ‘tenant’ must be in writing. Rent payments are recurring and the duty to pay rent only ceases if the estate is destroyed. Destruction may either be due to human causes  such as a fire or through natural events for example, an earthquake.

Duration and obligations of leasehold or Emphyteusis contracts

Emphyteusis can be in perpetuity or limited to a minimum of 20 years. In either case, entitlements are the same.

In other words, a tenant may sublet the property, receive compensation for improvements made and even retain the property until full payment of his credit is rightfully received. These things, as well as those previously mentioned, do not require the consent of the landlord.

If the Emphyteusis has a duration of 20 years, the tenant cannot contractually transfer rights to another party. The right of pre-emption does not apply to the tenant in the same way it does to farmers. This means that the tenant in a leasehold or Empyteutical contract arrangement does not have right of first refusal to purchase land.

The tenant has a very broad right to dispose of the property held under perpetual Emphyteusis. Thus a tenant may dispose of the emphyteutical property by means of a deed in compliance with Italian Civil Code. This can either be an act inter vivos, i.e. made during the tenant’s lifetime, or causa mortis, i.e. after death. In the event of death, disposal is by means of a will.

Redemption of leasehold or Emphyteusis contracts

A tenant can acquire full ownership of Emphyteutical property through the payment of a price corresponding to fifteen times the annual rent. A tenant can make use of this redemption right at any time.

This redemption right prevails as an equivalent right accorded to the landlord in case of breach of contract by the tenant, known as the “devolution” (devoluzione).

Redemption may be settled either out of court, by means of an agreement between the landlord and tenant. A notarised deed must reflect the settlement. Where the landlord and tenant cannot reach agreement, the dispute can be settled in court.

You should always check the title deeds of a property for leasehold or Emphyteusis arrangements

A tenant must increase the productivity, the usefulness or the value of the estate, rural or urban. This obligation lasts for the duration of the term of Emphyteusis and must be in writing. Annual rents to the landlord are payable annually.

The landlord has the right to request the end of the Emphyteusis due to a breach of contract by the tenant. The landlord must refund any improvements the tenant has made. Payments should be proportional to the increase of value of the estate when it returns to the landlord.

Finally …

Acquiring, redeeming or disposing of property subject to leasehold or Emphyteusis arrangements can present challenges. Other types of leasehold arrangements also exist in Italian law. It is advisable that you contact an Italian lawyer to ensure you understand all the implications of such arrangements.

If you are looking at a real estate investment in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. We are here to help.  Get in touch with us.

 

Italian Notary

What is the difference between an Italian notary and a lawyer?

International clients are often confused about the role of an Italian Notary. There is a mistaken belief that a public notary (notaio) performs the same function as a lawyer, solicitor or attorney (avvocato). This is not the case.

Public notaries emerged from the institution of scribes and scriveners. They were revered and knowledgeable public officials of the Roman Empire. These Notaries prepared and drew up fair copies of deeds and other legal documents. They endorsed these documents using the seal of the court and thus the documents became ‘public acts’. Eventually, Notaries gained the right to use their own official seals to give their acts public status.Italian Notary

In modern times, Italian notaries act on behalf of the Italian State. It is the Italian Ministry of Justice that appoints them. Because an Italian notary is an official of the Italian State, a document endorsed by a notaio guarantees its legal status.

On the other hand, a lawyer, is someone you engage to act exclusively on your behalf in a legal matter. Whereas a lawyer exclusively commits to protecting your interests, a notaio endorses acts, deeds and documents and collects taxes.

A notaio is a qualified lawyer who works as a public officer for the Italian State. However, because an Italian notary is an official of the State, by law they must maintain impartiality in all transactions. A notary cannot therefore provide legal representation to any party involved. A notary can however provide advice if requested but, must protect parties equally.

An Italian notary prepares acts, endorses documents and collects tax for the Italian State

Notaries operate in every area of law including family, property, inheritance, asset, corporate, rural, local authority, and other areas. An Italian notary is present at all significant times in life which require a State document or tax payment.

A notary is empowered by the Italian State to endorse documents, agreements, contracts and other instruments by affixing his seal and signature.  In so doing, Italian Public Notaries officially witness the wishes expressed by the signatories and give a personal guarantee regarding the content and date of the instrument.

Although a notaio has public authority, the notaio operates on a self-employed basis. They are mostly paid by clients (not by the taxpayer) on the basis of a rate fixed by the Italian State for notarial services.

Regardless of whether a property is purchased from a private vendor or through a real estate agent, in accordance with Italian legislation, a notaio must oversee the sale. The notaio is responsible for receiving all legal documents pertaining to the sale, verifying their authenticity and drawing up the deed of sale – Atto di Vendita.

Often in Italy the vendor and purchaser use a single notaio for a property transaction. According to Italian law, it is the buyer’s legal right to appoint the notary public. We would advise that buyers choose their own notary. You should bear in mind that an estate agent and the vendor have a vested interest in selling a property. Using a notary recommended by these parties may therefore create a conflict of interest.

What is the specific role of an Italian notary in Italian property transactions?

The notaio may execute certain checks at the very end of the conveyancing process but, this would only be after the buyer has already paid substantial deposits to the vendor.

Checks might include each party’s rights to buy or sell the property, or a land registry search to see whether any third parties have a claim on the property. A notary may also search for any mortgages on the property or verify the presence at of planning permission. However, a notary public will not inspect the property to make sure it actually complies with planning permission.

The main role of the notaio therefore revolves around the exchange of contracts. This involves drawing up the deed of sale. This is based on input from the vendor and/or the estate agent and the preliminary contract.

At the signing of the deed of sale, an Italian notary first verifies the identity of parties involved in the transaction. Then the notaio reads the contract aloud to all parties. After all parties have signed, the notaio provides a copy of the deed of sale to both buyer and vendor and oversees the transfer of funds for the transaction. In addition, the notary ensures that the Italian State receives taxes and fees in full. Finally, the notary registers the new deed of ownership at the land registry.

Why would a buyer need an avvocato for a property transaction?

Although it is not a legal requirement in Italy, as they would in their home country, many buyers appoint an avvocato to make sure their best interests are served throughout the three-step Italian property purchasing process.

A buyer’s avvocato will conduct thorough due diligence, searches and detailed checks on the buyer’s behalf and provide legal advice throughout the Italian property purchasing process.

Having your own lawyer ensures you get:

– the best contractual terms and conditions on the property

– deposit protection

– efficient and smooth conveyancing

– no hidden surprises along the way or later

Finally …

If you are thinking of making a real estate investment in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.


You might find our guide to buying property in Italy useful.
For more information about the Italian notary’s role in property transactions, visit the Consiglio Nazionale del Notariato website.

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 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 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.

 

Executor in Italian Succession

What is the role of an executor in Italian succession?

executor in Italian successionOnly a testator may appoint an executor in a will. An executor in an Italian succession procedure is responsible for managing your last wishes and the administration of your estate. Your appointed executor should agree to undertake to manage your estate with all reasonable care.

In Italy, an executor manages all succession procedures in accordance with Italian legislation

First, the executor must take possession of all the assets included in your estate. Then the executor manages the distribution of assets and bequests to heirs in accordance with your will. If you appoint an executor, your heirs may neither manage nor dispose of your assets autonomously.

Appointing an executor is highly recommended in complex personal or patrimonial frameworks. For example, an estate involving cross-border assets. Similarly, if estate transfer is to heirs living outside of Italy or who are not Italian nationals or the testator feels may have vested or conflicts of interest. Another example would be if an heir is legally incapacitated or under the age of 18.

According to Italian law, an executor has the power to manage the deceased’s estate. As previously mentioned, this involves taking possession of the assets and distributing them among heirs forced and nominated heirs as applicable. Where a court claim or dispute arises, the executor actively and passively represents the deceased. In addition, the executor is responsible for obtaining relevant legal consents where heirs are minors, absent, legally incapacitated or legal entities.

Once the Italian succession procedure is complete, the executor must render detailed accounts. An executor is personally liable to pay any damages to heirs or legatees in case of mismanagement.

Is it possible to take a “DIY” approach to Italian estate administration?

Of course, you don’t need to appoint an executor in your will. Your heirs can manage the whole Italian succession procedure themselves. That said, the death of a relative or friend is a very stressful and emotional time. If the estate involves any complexity such as property in Italy, this can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts among heirs.

If you are making or reviewing your will, appointing an experienced estate lawyer as your executor protects your heirs from misunderstandings. In addition, it will reduce costs deriving from procedural mistakes and inheritance tax calculations.

Likewise if you are an executor of an Italian estate, a lawyer will be able to help with the Italian succession procedure. Engaging a specialist Italian inheritance lawyer will facilitate the whole process. It can save money and headaches with paperwork or red tape and prevents procedural mistakes and omissions. Plus if a costly error does happen, your lawyer is jointly liable.

Finally …

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 questions about your Italian estate planning.

Cross-Border Inheritance in Italy. A Case Study

What is the legal situation if you own assets in Italy and abroad?


Cross-border inheritance cases have increased during the past decade. Here we explore one such case.

Cross-Border Inheritance – A Case StudyTom Smith was a UK national in his 60s. He had two children from his first marriage, both children are now adults. On a trip to Italy 20 years ago, Tom met a young Italian woman, Giovanna. A few years later, they got married in Giovanna’s home town – Perugia, in Umbria.

Tom and Giovanna set up home in the countryside, about 30kms from Perugia. They lived in a house on two hectares of land set to orchards and olive groves.

Tom and Giovanna have a daughter. Francesca, now aged 15, was born in Italy and holds dual British and Italian nationality.

Cross-border investments

Before he met and married Giovanna, Tom had purchased a property in Bath in southwest England. The title is in Tom’s name only and the property is currently valued at about £1 million. During their marriage, Tom and Giovanna purchased a property in Cornwall, now worth about £300 thousand, which they jointly own.

The property in the Umbrian countryside was purchased for €250 thousand in 2007, under the Italian marital “Community of Property” regime.

In his name only, Tom also has a portfolio of investments in the UK. The portfolio is worth about £200 thousand. In addition, Tom has UK bank accounts with a balance of £10 thousand. He and Giovanna have a joint bank account in Italy with a balance of €12 thousand. The family mainly used this for property maintenance, tax and living expenses in Italy.

Wills

When Francesca was born in 2002, Tom made a new English will. He revoked his former will at that time. Tom left legacies of £100 thousand to each of his two adult children, with the residue of the estate held in trust with an income to his wife Giovanna for life. On Giovanna’s death, the estate passed to Francesca. He appointed an English solicitor as executor and trustee of the estate.

Tragically, one morning last year, while Tom was working in his olive grove, he suffered a  fatal heart attack. Giovanna is now finding it impossible to cope with the house and land in the Italian countryside. She wants to sell the property and purchase an apartment for herself and Francesca in Perugia.

Giovanna thinks Tom had an Italian will that mirrored his English will. However, she has been unable to locate it.

As he is unfamiliar with all the intricacies of Italian law and the Italian inheritance and probate procedure, the English solicitor has contacted us. He has a number questions regarding Tom Smith’s cross-border inheritance case.

Cross-border inheritance Q&A

Is Tom Smith’s English will recognised under Italian law? If so, do the Italian authorities require a UK grant of probate before commencing the administration of the Italian estate?

Assuming Tom Smith’s will is recognised as valid by the UK authorities, it is also recognised under Italian law. A UK grant of probate evidences the recognition of a will by the UK authorities. You may require a certificate of English law as proof of recognition in order to start succession procedures in Italy.

Is it possible Tom also left an Italian Will? What searches could I undertake to ascertain this?

There are three types of will in Italy. As Giovanna is unable to locate an Italian will, it’s possible that Tom had a will which he deposited with a notary. You can request a search of notarial archives and/or the General Wills Registry in Rome.

What steps, if any, should I take immediately in Italy? Who can take such steps?

Any individual with an interest in the succession can start the relevant succession procedures in Italy. In order to facilitate the process, you may wish to obtain support from an Italian inheritance lawyer. The priority is lodging the statement of succession with the Italian Inland Revenue (Agenzia delle Entrate).

Can I liaise directly with the bank in Italy, requiring funds to be transferred directly to Giovanna and Francesca?

Yes. However, prior to the completion of succession procedures in Italy, the bank will not release any funds.

As the executor of Tom Smith’s will, can I sell the Italian property directly to a third party? Which law governs the administration of the Italian property?

An executor should dispose of the inheritance assets in compliance with the will. In principle, the administration of an Italian property is subject to Italian law.

Under Italian conflicts rules, which law governs the succession of Italian property?

Italy is a signatory to the EU Succession Regulation. Art. 22 of the EU Succession Regulation provides that a testator may choose, or determine, the law of their nationality as the law to govern the succession as a whole, professio juris (choice of law). Alternatively, with regard to property, succession is subject to Italian law. As far as movable assets are concerned, succession will be regulated by the law of domicile.

Are there any forced heirship rules in Italy? Will they be applicable in this particular case?

Forced heirship rules exists in Italy. They are applicable in this case both to Tom Smith’s direct descendent – his daughter, Francesca and to Giovanna his surviving spouse.

If the Italian property cannot be sold, could the trustee and/or Francesca be one of the registered owners of the property?

They can, provided Tom named them in his will.

Would it have been easier for Tom Smith to make a will under Italian law to dispose of his assets?

Certainly the whole succession procedure would have been easier and more practical if Tom Smith had a will in Italian. As a matter fact, there are difficulties in managing an iternational will in Italy. A will in a foreign language requires a certified translation by a sworn translator. This can lead to issues regarding exact interpretation of the testator’s wishes by the Italian authorities. This in turn may lead to a more costly and protracted succession procedure.

Is there any inheritance tax in Italy and, if so, who is liable for the payments?

Yes. Firstly, you need to open a succession procedure. Once this has happened, you can file the statement of succession. Although it is not always the case, the opening of a succession procedure usually coincides with a testator’s death. A filing with the tax authorities should take place within 12 months of the succession procedure opening. Once the tax authorities receive the statement of succession, they will calculate the amount of inheritance tax due from each heir on their share of the inheritance.

Finally …

Trying to navigate the Italian inheritance procedure without the assistance of an experienced Italian inheritance attorney can be difficult, especially if you are abroad. We would recommend that you seek professional advice and guidance to manage the process sympathetically and efficiently.

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.

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

Make an Italian Will if you own property in Italy

Making an Italian will facilitates the Italian succession process

Make an Italian willDo you own property at home and in Italy? If so, we would advise that you make an Italian will. If you are resident in Italy at the time of your death, Italian Inheritance law is applicable to your worldwide assets. Whereas if you were resident outside Italy, Italian inheritance law is applicable to assets in Italy. Either way, Italian law governs your Italian property.

Making an Italian will therefore facilitate the way forward for those you leave behind. It reduces translation costs and prevents potentially costly disputes and misinterpretations regarding your wishes. In addition, an Italian will also creates tax and administration efficiencies.

Isn’t making an Italian Will expensive? 

On the contrary, the cost of making an Italian Will is not excessive. It is a worthwhile expense to keep your affairs in order and save stress, time and expense after your death. 

Can you make a DIY will in Italy?

It is possible to make an Italian DIY will. In a previous article, we have provided a simple template for this purpose.

However, if your circumstances are even slightly complex, you could be causing more problems than you solve. If you own assets in Italy and elsewhere, this is a more complex cross-border situation. If you make your own will, without legal assistance, it can lead to mistakes or a lack of clarity. You may even run the risk of your will being invalid.

Seeking legal assistance when making an Italian will is advisable 

If you have a number of beneficiaries, if you own assets in Italy and elsewhere, if you have residential or business connections in Italy, we would always counsel taking legal advice from a specialist Italian inheritance lawyer.

In Italy, couple cannot have a joint will. Each spouse or partner needs their own separate will. Therefore, you should seek advice if you live with someone, if you are married or in a civil partnership. Likewise you should seek advice if you have children from a previous relationship or step-children. The latter may not automatically be beneficiaries of your estate.

Wills, estate-planning and inheritance are serious matters. They touch many lives in many ways. If you die intestate – without a will, you have no say in what happens to your estate. Instead, the division of your estate will be determined by the law of the country (or countries) where your assets are situated.

In Italy, succession law is based on the principle of ‘Unity of Inheritance’. This principle differs substantially from common law. Essentially, you may find that Italian assets you own are not inherited by those who you wished and, the whole estate may not be passed on in the most tax-efficient way.

You should review your will periodically

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

Once you have written your will, you should review it regularly to make sure it reflects your wishes, especially if your life changes. 

Finally …

People put off making a will 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.

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 are buying or already own an Italian property and have any questions about making or reviewing a will.

 

You may also like Estate Planning And Tax. Buying An Italian Property.

Accepting Or Renouncing Italian Inheritance

Accepting Or Renouncing Italian InheritanceIn Italy, a beneficiary can choose between accepting or renouncing Italian Inheritance. The beneficiary qualifies as heir as soon as they accept the inheritance. Once accepted, the qualification of the heir is irrevocable.

How does acceptance work?

The beneficiary can accept to be an heir expressly or tacitly. In either case, the beneficiary must accept within 10 years from the opening of the succession process. 

When the beneficiary declares to accept the status of heir they need a notarial or a private deed. 

When someone acts in such a way that the acceptance can be implied or inferred it is referred to as Tacit acceptance

The acceptance can also be reserved. This way, the successor reserves the right to accept or renounce an Italian inheritance until such times as they are able to ascertain whether debts or liabilities on the assets exceed the value of the property the beneficiary is inheriting. In this way, the heir is able to discharge themselves from paying any outstanding debts by renouncing an inheritance in favour of creditors and legatees.

Usually, an heir renounces an inheritance if the decedent’s debts exceed the value of the assets. The heir must pay the decedent’s debts up to the value of the property they inherit.

Renouncing an inheritance

For the beneficiary to renounce an Italian inheritance they must make a  statement in front of a Notary Public or at the chancery of the court where they opend the succession procedure (“volontaria giurisdizione” section). The Notary Public or the court clerk then record a renouncement.  The beneficiary must renounce within 10 years of the opening of an Italian succession procedure.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have published a Guide to Italian Inheritance, which we hope you will find useful. 

If you are a beneficiary to an Italian inheritance, it is always advisable to consult a competent independent professional. They will be in a position to provide information about debts and charges on inherited assets and the heirs duties. An experienced legal professional will provide advice based on a comprehensive inventory of the assets in question. This way you can make an informed decision on how to proceed. 

Each case is different so, if you would like to contact us for a free consultation about your Italian inheritance matter, please get in touch.