Are your affairs in order? Wills are important – especially if you own assets in more than one jurisdiction
The independent professional body for solicitors in England and Wales has warned that the consequences of dying without a valid will can be dire for those left behind. The research revealed that 73 per cent of 16-54 year olds don’t have wills. Whereas 64 per cent of people over the age of 55 have made their final wishes clear in a will.
The research also found that men are more likely to have a will and keep it updated than women.
Twenty-three per cent of respondents wrongly believed that without a will, their possessions would automatically go to their family.
Dying intestate not only means your final wishes will probably go unheeded, but the financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy.
Owning property in Italy adds to the complexity for heirs if you die intestate
If the deceased was resident in Italy at the time of death, Italian Inheritance law applies to the deceased’s worldwide assets.
If the deceased lived outside Italy, Italian inheritance law is only applicable to assets in Italy.
This means that foreign nationals with a second home in Italy are subject to international succession procedures.
Generally speaking, Italy recognises the validity of international wills. However, a will in a foreign language needs to be translated by a sworn translator before a notary can register and publish it. This involves cost, takes time and may lead to misinterpretation.
It is therefore advisable for non-Italian nationals who own assets in Italy to draft an Italian will to cover those assets.
Why should you have an Italian will for your assets in Italy?
Firstly, having an Italian will minimises misunderstandings and/or conflicts amongst heirs. Secondly, it facilitates legislative, linguistic and jurisdictional matters with the Italian authorities. Thirdly, having an Italian will can reduce estate tax and lastly, it simplifies the whole inheritance procedure.
Making a will is usually a relatively simple process but we urge people to use a qualified, insured solicitor because he or she will be able to spot cross-border nuances that could lead to trouble later on if not properly addressed.
You need to list all the assets that you would like to include in your Italian will . For example, Italian property, vehicles you keep in Italy, bank accounts and so on.
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 such as buying property in Italy.
EU Succession Regulations: choice of law in wills
EU Law 650/2012, also known as the Brussels IV Regulation came into effect on 17thAugust 2015. Brussels IV contains a provision for individuals to make an election in their wills for the country of their nationality, or where individuals have multiple nationalities any one of their nationalities, to apply to the devolution of their estate.
Interestingly, there are also potential benefits for non-EU nationals. However, again, appropriate action in the form of a choice of law clause in a will is necessary.
Nominating a country law needs careful consideration. You should take into account matters such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights with respect to your estate.
Because each case is different, you should seek professional support and advice relating to wills.
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 making an Italian will or if would like to discuss your situation.
You may also be interested in How to write an Italian Will.
To find out more about Italian inheritance, you might find our Guide to Italian Inheritance helpful.