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Italian inheritance basics

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  • Italian inheritance basics

    Hello everybody,

    As a result of my everlasting wish to inform people about good / safe ways to own property in Italy, I’ve decided to post this time my contribution around the subject of ‘Inheriting a property in Italy’. We Italians have spread ourselves all over the world, which can bring some of you in the interesting position of receiving a property in Italy from a family member that has passed on. I have supported many different clients and have experienced legal issues around this subject.

    Here are my views how to make use of your inheritance right without any legal complications in Italy.


    The law n.218 of the 31st of May 1995 regulates the field of 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.

    The Italian legislator adopted the principle of “unity of the inheritance”.

    This principle differs substantially from the one adopted in common law countries.

    This legal principle is based on the separation between non-property assets and property assets: to non- property assets is applicable the law of the last domicile or last citizenship of the deceased party, 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), therefore the Italian 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 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 law, the hereditary assets present in Italy would be assigned to the Italian State.

    Furthermore the cost of translating all the relevant foreign or English-language documents into Italian after the death of the foreign owner of an Italian property most likely will be greater than the cost of drafting an Italian will.

    I hope this article will help you. If there are any questions, please let me know and I will gladly answer. If there are other topics related to Italian property legislation, I will happily consider it when writing future articles.

    Avv. Giandomenico De Tullio
    De Tullio Law Firm