Testamentary Succession in Italy: Italian Inheritance Law

Testamentary Succession in Italy: Italian Inheritance Law

Close family members take precedence in Italian inheritance

Testamentary succession is determined in accordance with the provisions of a lawful will and the applicable rules of law

In Italy, the disposal of an estate occurs in compliance with the decisions of the testator as set out in an Italian will. Or, where the deceased was intestate, i.e the deceased did not have a will, in accordance with Italian inheritance law.

Italian inheritance law dates back to the Roman Law tradition. Because of this, testamentary succession in Italy follows the principle that a decedent’s close family members merit special protection. This therefore partially limits the right of the testator to dispose of assets entirely as s/he wishes.

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Testamentary succession and foreign wills

Following the death of a testator with an Italian will, the competent authorities register and publish the will. However, in the case of foreign wills, Italian law states that an Italian Public Notary must authenticate the will before probate can begin.

Managing testamentary succession documents drafted in a foreign language and subject to a foreign jurisdiction in Italy can present difficulties. In fact, a notary cannot publish or legalise a will drafted in a foreign language. The notary will therefore require an Italian translation. You will need to engage a court-sworn translator to translate the will. Costs for this may be substantially higher than drafting an Italian will in the first place.

Drafting a will in Italian minimises the risk of conflicts among heirs following the death of the testator. It also ensures that the Italian authorities have a clear and direct understanding of the legal framework.

The exclusion of certain heirs from testamentary succession in Italy

As mentioned above, one of the principles of Italian legal succession is the protection of the family. Whether you die with or without a will, you cannot exclude some heirs from the succession.

Italian law calls these forced heirs. They must receive a part of the deceased’s assets. This is known as the reserved quota. Italian Civil Code also determines what quota of assets a testator can freely dispose of, without limitation. This is known as the available quota. 

Forced heirs, reserved and available quotas in Italy

The table below  shows the reserved quota for forced heirs and the available quota dependent on relationship to the deceased:

Forced heirs Reserved quotas and availability
Spouse (or registered partnership) (in the absence of children and parents) 1/2 to the spouse (or registered partner) = 1/2 available quota
One child (in the absence of a spouse or registered partnership) 1/2 to the child = 1/2 available quota
Two or more children (in the absence of a spouse or registered partnership) 2/3 to children (divided into equal parts) = 1/3 available quota
Spouse (or registered partnership) and only one child 1/3 to the spouse (or registered partnership) 1/3 to the child = 1/3 available quota
Spouse (or registered partnership) and two or more children 1/4 to the spouse (or registered partnership)  1/2 to children (divided in equal parts) = 1/4 available quota
Spouse (or registered partnership) and parents (in the absence of children) 1/2 to the spouse (or registered partnership)  1/4 to parents (divided into equal parts) = 1/4 available quota
Parents (in the absence of children and spouse or registered partnership) 1/3 (divided into equal parts) = 2/3 available quota
If there is a Will, the law reserves a quota of inheritance only for the spouse (or registered partner) and children (if the deceased had no children there is a reserved quota for parents who are still living), so if the Will is valid, other relatives cannot make claims.  

Applicable laws

It is also worth mentioning that non-Italian nationals may be subject to the testamentary succession laws of their own country. 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.

For foreign nationals resident in Italy, the introduction of EU Succession Regulations, known as Brussels IVmay also impact how you manage your testamentary succession. 

Finally …

Italian inheritance is a complex matter. In addition, if you own assets in more than one country, this can further compound the complexity. We recommend you seek independent legal advice regarding your personal situation. 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.

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.  

You may also be interested in Legitimate Heirs. Rights of “Forced Heirs” in Italian Inheritance

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