Italian Inheritance Law Assistace
Inheritance or succession is the process whereby all legal aspects related to the deceased are dealt with and the deceased’s estate is transferred to the legal or testamentary heirs.
ITALIAN INHERITANCE LAW
Where a person dies without a valid Will -intestate-, the Italian succession law indictates who will inherit the estate and how much each beneficiary will inherit. Any deceased who held assets in Italy is subject to the law dictated by the Italian Civil Code in relation to the succession to their estate. Italian law imposes that specific relatives, sometimes including those who do not hold Italian citizenship, are entitled to a fixed proportion of the estate. This is known as forced heirship or legittima.
Where there is a valid Will, the validity of the Will must be verified prior to beginning the inheritance process. All formalities must be fully respected in order to undertake and complete succession before proceeding to transfer assets to entitled beneficiaries. If a Will infringes the rules of forced heirship or legittima, it is possible for the affected heir to contest the Will to better protect their heirship rights. In this case, any dispute relating to the division of the estate must be called to Mediation, an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure, or an assisted negotiation (negoziazione assistita), before it can be taken to Court.
The procedure: Dichiarazione di Successione
Once all the relevant documentation has been collated and the necessary translations are complete, the following process can take place:
- The inheritance application (Dichiarazione di Successione), together with the necessary documentation, is lodged before the Italian Authorities to fulfil all the legal and tax requirements and enable the transfer of movable and immovable assets to the beneficiary/ies.
- Italian law requires the inheritance application (Dichiarazione di Successione) to be lodged within one year of the decedent’s death. After this period, penalties may apply.
- Depending on the grade of heirship, inheritance tax may be due, regardless of whether the heir is legal or testamentary.
- To complete the process, the relevant entries at the Land Registry (Catasto) must be updated to formally transfer the ownership of any immovable assets (e.g. properties, plots, parcels of land) over to the beneficiaries.
We encourage you to seek legal independent advice if you have any queries in relation to the information above.
Acceptance vs Renunciation (Disclaim) to the inheritance
Where a person dies with or without a valid Will (intestate), any beneficiaries of the estate can decide by means of free will to accept or renounce their right to inherit.
Acceptance of the inheritance
Accepting the inheritance means that the beneficiary formally acquires rights and duties in respect to the estate, therefore credits and debts will fully and wholly be taken over by the acceptant. Under Italian law, the beneficiary’s entitlement to accept the inheritance prescribes ten years after the decedent’s death.
The acceptance: express or tacit.
Express acceptance is declared before a Public Notary or before the competent Court. Where the acceptance is expressed, it can be made under benefit of inventory. This type of acceptance enables the beneficiary to accept or renounce the inheritance after having a complete understanding of what the deceased’s outstanding debts are. In this situation, if the debts are higher than the value of the estate, the beneficiary is protected about any personal liability on their own present or future assets. Acceptance is considered tacit when the beneficiary’s actions or behaviour imply their intention to accept the inheritance, e.g. undertaking legal actions only reserved to the heirs, disposing of the estate, taking possession of the estate and paying taxes.
Renunciation (Disclaim) of the inheritance
It may be in the beneficiary’s interest to renounce the inheritance due to the large debts belonging to the estate or for other reasons.
According to the Italian Civil Code, the renunciation/disclaim of the inheritance must be made expressly either before an Italian Public Notary or before the competent Court.
In certain circumstances, the renouncing beneficiary can revoke such declaration and acquire their rights as beneficiary. In this instance, certain criteria must be met before the renouncing beneficiary is considered a beneficiary with rights towards the inheritance.
In accordance with the paragraph 480 of the Civil Code the renunciation may be carried out as long as the right to accept hasn’t expired (ten years after the opening of the succession or the birth of the named party if not yet born at the time of opening of the inheritance). After the period of limitation the named party loses the right to accept the inheritance.
Please note that, whenever the heirs (or some of them) are not interested to the inheritance, the renunciation is very important in order to avoid any fiscal duty.