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Italy - Wills

Expats who have permanent residence in Italy or who own immovable property in this country should prepare their Will beforehand, so that their financial matters can be settled easily in the event of death. In order to make a legitimate Will, a person has to be:

Of sound mind
At least 18 years old
The legal owner of the assets mentioned

Foreigners living in Italy should have an Italian Will. There are three types of valid Wills that are recognized by the Italian authorities. These include Handwritten Wills, Formal Wills and Secret Wills.

Handwritten Wills (Holographic Will, Testamento Olografo) – These Wills are personally written by the testator (the person who is making the Will). They can be written on a regular sheet of paper and in any language but they have to be signed as well as dated. In an event of death, this Will needs to be checked by a lawyer who ensures that all the legal requirements have been met. These are simple documents that don’t require any type of formal attestation or witnesses.

Formal Wills (Testamento Pubblico) – This document is prepared by an Italian Notary, as per the testator’s instructions. Once the Will is drafted, the notary reads it out aloud to make sure that it complies with the will-maker’s wishes. If there are no changes to be made, the testator and the witnesses sign the document. After that, it is recorded and maintained with the Italian notary so that it cannot be disregarded or misplaced. These Wills can only be prepared with the assistance of a notary and there are legal fees involved. Since the Formal Will isn’t a secret, it can be disclosed to a third party. Expats will find it difficult to find a Notary who speaks English and may therefore need to get an interpreter involved.

Secret Wills (Testamento Segreto) – Sometimes, testators draft a will and seal it in an envelope, before delivering it to an Italian Notary. In such instances, the contents of the envelope remain confidential until after the testator’s death. The sealed envelope is opened according to the testator’s instructions. The Notary fee for a Secret Will is lower that the amount charged for a Formal Will.

If a deceased person has more than one Will, the most recently made one will be treated as valid by the Italian authorities

Expats who want to make a Will in Italy should seek legal advice from a local attorney as well as a lawyer from their home country. Since tax issues are generally involved in preparing Wills, consulting an Italian accountant also becomes necessary.

According to the Inheritance Law in Italy, a minimum statutory share (successione necessaria) of the estate has to be bequeathed to the will-maker’s immediate kin. Family members who are entitled to this share include the spouse (not divorced), children (legitimate, illegitimate or adopted) and ascendants (parents, siblings, uncles, aunts). The rest of the estate can be willed in any way. In case a deceased person does not have a Will, the inheritance law will be taken into consideration, which means that the closest relatives are entitled to a share of the assets. This law doesn’t apply to all expats though.

If the Successione Necessaria has not been followed by the deceased, any family members who believe that they should have got more can contest the will or challenge the inheritance.

Before preparing any type of Will, it is therefore important for the testator to understand the law and its implication on his assets. The procedure on its own is quite quick and simple. However, all the required documents should be in place before contacting a lawyer. Expats should bear in mind that the cost of translating the required documents will probably exceed the cost of making an Italian will.

When it is time to settle a deceased person’s estate, the family members must first determine what kind of Will was made. If the heirs of a Will are not Italian, they may face some difficulty in getting the Italian assets transferred to their names.

All heirs in Italy are required to pay an Inheritance Tax, while presenting their declaration to the office. There are three different flat rates on whole/ part of the deceased’s estate.

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