Inheritance Matters

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Inheritance MattersInheritance matters. There is a gentle parody currently doing the rounds. Allegedly, the late lamented Italian novelist, philosopher and interpretive semiotician Umberto Eco has left a Will that neither his lawyers nor beneficiaries can decipher.

Obviously a Will should be accurate, concise and straightforward. Even if your life is highly complex, an experienced lawyer should be able to make sense of your legacies. Read more

The New 2015 European Inheritance Rules

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European Inheritance Rules

Action should be taken now to benefit from the new 2015 European Inheritance Rules. According to The European Commission some 450,000 cross-border successions occur in the EU each year, estimated to be worth in excess of €120 billion. As it stands, many countries in the EU, including Italy, have laws governing ‘forced heirships’ along with different opinions as to whether inheritance is dealt with under local law, or the law of the nationality of the deceased. To somewhat solve this confusion and prevent disputes, effective August 17th 2015 new rules will allow individuals across participating EU member states to choose which country jurisdiction will apply to the devolution of estates. Read more

Italian succession law

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Italian succession law

How does it work?

Italian succession law is based on the Roman Law principle which gives some protection to close members of the family, partially limiting the right of the testator to dispose of his/her own assets.  Testamentary Succession is defined as the assignment of the hereditary assets in compliance with the wishes of the testator as set out in an Italian Will whereas in the absence of a Will inheritance is devolved following the principles of Legal Succession.

Where there is no will, succession law gives rights to a number of legitimate heirs who have rights to the assets of the deceased. Such heirs are the spouse of the deceased and the relatives identified by the law starting from the closer ones until the 6th degree of connection.

Italian succession law reserves a significant quota of the inheritance to very close relatives: spouse, ascendants and descendants are all defined as “forced heirs”, meaning that the testator cannot exclude them with their Will. When drafting an Italian will, the testator is free to dispose of a part of his assets known as “disposable quota”. This allows the testator to assign only part of their assets to strangers or non-relatives.

Succession law is based on unity of inheritance which highlights the difference between property and non-property assets: the law of the last domicile or citizenship of the deceased party is applicable to non-property assets, while the law of the country where the property is located is applied to property assets. Therefore, properties in different countries will be regulated by the law of the country where each property is located.  The succession procedure is deemed to be closed when all assets, rights and pending payments have been transferred to the rightful heirs either by mutual agreement or as consequence of judicial proceedings. Agreement of inheritance is then produced in written form and signed by the relevant parties.

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Italian inheritance law regulation

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What are the principles at the basis of Italian inheritance law?

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

The succession rules are determined on the basis of the national law of the deceased party at the moment of his death.italian inheritance law

The Italian legislator adopted the principle of “unity of inheritance”. This principle differs substantially from the one adopted in common law countries. It is based on the separation between non-property assets and property assets: to non-property assets the law of the last domicile or last citizenship of the deceased party is applicable, and to property assets 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 hereditary asset includes properties located in different states, the succession of each single property could be regulated by the law of the country where the property is located.

The law regulating the succession is the national law of the deceased at the time of his death. The Italian rules on conflict of laws consider the possibility that the national law of a deceased foreigner might defer to the law of another country. Such deferment is effective only if the law of the third State accepts the deferment. Here is a practical example: if a British citizen before his death left some properties in Italy, the succession will be regulated by the British law. But following the British “conflict law” the law applicable to properties should be the “lex rei sitae (law of the country where the property is located), that is/viz., the Italian inheritance law.

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 of the rights that the Italian law provides for the so called legittimari” ( members of the family who have the right to receive a fixed part of the property of the deceased even against the will) who are resident in Italy at the moment of death of the deceased.

It is highly advisable to draft an Italian will assisted by your Italian  inheritance lawyer in order to limit the consequences of the “legal succession”. The “legal succession” 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). In case of lack of heirs, according to the Italian inheritance law, the hereditary assets present in Italy would be assigned to the Italian State.

Please note, any statement made in this article is intended to be a general practical introductory explanation only and not formal legal advice. This firm accepts no liability or any responsibility for any statement made.

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Italian real estate attorneys and Italian inheritance attorneys

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