Italian will: everything you need to know

Italian Law provides two kinds of succession schemes:
  • Intestate Succession  (or ab intestato) in absence of a will;
  • Testamentary Succession, in presence of a will
Italian Law considers the testament as a unilateral and revocable act by which an individual may dispose of his /her patrimony. The aim of this article is analysing and understanding the different types of Italian will and hot to proceed with an Italian will. According to Italian Law, a testament is a personal act that must be the direct and exclusive manifestation of the deceased’s will. In order to be the beneficiary of a will, Italian law requires the following elements:
  1. The beneficiary has reached 18 years of age;
  2. The testator must be the legal owner of the interested assets;
  3. The testator must be of sound of mind. In other words, the testator must have full mental capacity in order to have testamentary capacity.
There are three different types of will:
  1.  Holographic Will
The holographic will must be personally handwritten by the testator. Furthermore, the will must include the date and it must be signed by the testator. Also, the holographic will might be written in any language. A holographic will is probably the simplest testamentary scheme. In fact, it consists of a document personally drafted and signed by the testator. In this case, no witness or attestation clauses are needed.
  1.  Public (Formal) Will 
The public will is written by a notary in the presence of the testator and two witnesses. Then, the notary will set down in writing all testator’s wills and, after that, he will read the testament in the presence of the testator and the witnesses. The public will is described as a fairly formal document that might be created only with the assistance of a notary. The document must be drafted by an Italian notary following testator’s instructions. Again, in order to ensure compliance with testator’s wishes, the testament must be read aloud in the presence of the testator and both witnesses. The document must be signed by the testator in the presence of witnesses and it must be recorded and stored with an Italian notary.
  1.  Secret Will 
The secret will may be drafted by the testator or by a third party. Once the will has been drafted, the document will be placed in a sealed envelope and delivered to an Italian notary. The special feature of the secret will is secrecy indeed. The content of the document will remain secret until testator’s death. In this last case, notarial fees are usually lower than those occurring for a formal will.

Preparation of the Italian Will

In the event of Italian will preparation, it is recommendable to get the advice of an Italian lawyer. Furthermore, Will and probate involve taxation matters so that an Italian accountant should be consulted as well. However, in the event of the existence of a valid testament, Italian law recognises to some relatives the right to take over the division of the estate. Then, technically, the testator cannot freely dispose of his patrimony. In this last case (called Successione Necessaria), Italian law affirms that a minimum statutory share of the estate must be allocated to an immediate family member before that the rest of the asset may fallow testator’s will. Then, it is paramount to understand to which extent the testator may freely dispose of his patrimony according to the Italian Law. During the drafting stage, it may arise the need of implementing changes to terms and beneficiaries of the will. In this last case, it is suggested to contact an Italian lawyer that may provide you with guidance. While it is recommended to avoid deep and frequent changes to the testament, a will can be changed in all of his components. However, it is important to highlight that only the most recent change will be considered valid.

Foreigner and Italian Will

Italian law recognises the validity of an international will. However, a foreigner is recommended to draft an Italian will if they:
  • Permanently live within the Italian territory;
  • Own real estate assets within the Italian territory.
Foreigners who reside in Italy are suggested to draft an Italian will due to the difficulties with the transfer of any Italian assets. In fact, the international will must be authenticated by an Italian notary before any goods or asset might be distributed. Also, the notary might resolve jurisdictional conflicts between Italian and foreign legislation. In addition, the costs for the translation might be greater than the cost of an Italian will. English nationals should be aware that Italian legislation is less severe in terms of inheritance taxes. In fact, small to medium assets are not subject to inheritance tax in Italy.

We are here to help

If you think you may need VGS Lawyers’ help, do not hesitate. A well-drafted testament might be crucial for you and your family interests. We can give you our preliminary advice and make a plan. For further information please contact or leave your contact details in the Contact Form and you will be contacted within 24 hours.
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