Where 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
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.