Italian Inheritance Law rules the transfer of the estate (i.e., assets, rights and obligations) from a deceased person (de cuius) to his/her heirs.
The Codice Civile (Italian civil code) contemplates two types of succession:
- Successione Testamentaria (testate succession) – when succession is ruled by a will and testament;
- Successione Legittima (intestate succession) – when, in the absence of a will and testament, succession is ruled by the law.
In a case where a will exists but it does not provide for the whole estate, the succession is ruled in part by the will and in part by the law.
However, in some circumstances, Italian Inheritance Law guarantees that some next-of-kin (spouse, descendants, ascendants and siblings) may be entitled to inherit certain percentages (i.e., quote di riserva) of the whole estate.
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In order for an heir to acquire the inheritance he/she must accept it.
Italian Law admits two kinds of acceptance of the inheritance:
- Express acceptance of an inheritance occurs when an heir makes a formal statement before a notary or a court’s registrar, in the form of a public instrument or authenticated signature.
- Tacit acceptance of an inheritance occurs when the heir acts as owner (e.g., selling or donating the property), despite having made no formal statement.
Pursuant to article 480 of the Italian civil code, the right to accept an inheritance, expressly or tacitly, expires within 10 years after the opening of the succession (meaning from the day of the death).
Also, Italian Law (art. 475 of the civil code) considers null:
- Statement of acceptance subject to terms or conditions;
- Partial acceptance of the inheritance.
The acceptance of an Italian inheritance implies tax obligations for the heirs.
In order to comply with fiscal duties related to the inheritance, the heirs are required to calculate and pay estate and property transfer taxes, and file a Dichiarazione di Successione (Statement of Succession) with proof of taxes paid with the Italian tax authority, the Agenzia delle Entrate, within 12 months of the death.
However, Italian law allows for the relinquishment of inheritance rights.
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At Stornelli Law, we provide assistance for Italian and cross-border inheritance matters, including but not limited to:
- Probate process based on an Italian or foreign will
- Processing testate and intestate succession claims
- Preliminary assets research (e.g., wills left in Italy, Italian real estate and rights on properties, bank accounts, life insurance awards and other kinds of possible relationships between the deceased person and credit institutions, insurance companies and social security institutions)
- Identifying the inheritance law applicable to a specific case
- Advising on the distribution of inheritance assets among rightful beneficiaries
- Determining the individuals entitled to receive a specific inheritance
- National will search
- Determining if a will is compliant with the law or violates the minimum shares granted to the deceased’s close familiars protected by Italian law
- Advising how to relinquish inheritance rights
- Calculating and paying inheritance taxes (i.e., estate tax and/or property transfer taxes), if due
- International estate planning
- Drafting an Italian or foreign will
- Reviewing and updating existing Italian and foreign wills
- Analyzing retrieved wills and advising in regard to their applicability, compliance with law, consequences, and if they are subject to revoke or be revoked by other wills
- International validation of Italian wills and any other kinds of documents (e.g., certificates) to be used abroad and foreign wills to be used in Italy
- Real estate due diligence, aimed to determine – before filing a succession – if properties are encumbered by debts, liens, easements or other kinds of burden
- Updating public records in the name of the heirs
- Managing, on behalf of the beneficiaries, the liquidation of the inheritance estate (e.g., properties, invested funds, etc.) or single shares of the assets
- Managing inherited assets
- Terminating joint ownerships on inherited assets
- Transferring inheritance funds and goods abroad
- Legal assistance throughout litigation, arbitration and mediation processes in the matter of Italian succession
Thanks to our experience with international procedures and to our network of professionals, our overseas clients can efficiently coordinate and handle most, if not all, Italian inheritance activities without traveling to Italy.
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