It is generally recommended that foreign citizens owning assets in Italy draft an Italian Will. This will prevent significant difficulties that heirs might experience when transferring the ownership of Italian properties originally registered in the name of the testator. Under Italian law, all foreign Wills must be authenticated by an Italian Public Notary before going through the Italian probate process.
Although, generally speaking, Italy recognises the validity of international Wills, it is advisable for non-Italian citizens to draft an Italian Will if you own property on Italian territory (house or land). Managing documents drafted in a foreign language (and governed by different legal jurisdictions) in Italy can raise a number of difficulties. As a matter of fact, the Notary will not publish or legalise documents drafted in a foreign language unless they have been translated into Italian by a certified and qualified translator.
It is also worth bearing in mind that an Italian Will can speed up the administrative procedures to be carried out with Italian banks. Bank accounts and bank deposits of the deceased will be frozen following the account holder’s death. The procedure to unfreeze them and obtain deposited funds can be long and difficult. Heirs could be called upon to pay certain expenses from their own pockets in the meantime, for example, payment of utility bills.
There are clear advantages to drafting an Italian Will. These can be summarised as follows:
- an Italian Will reduces the risk of conflict among heirs
- an Italian Will may mean a reduced tax bill for heirs
- it helps Italian authorities to better understand the decedent’s wishes regarding disposal of an estate.
It is essential to keep your Will in a safe place, for example in the hands of an independent professional who can guarantee its safe keeping, act as executor and advise beneficiaries of its existence.
A competent legal advisor can help you to draft a Will that complies with EU and Italian law. This limits the effects of Italian legal succession and ensures that Italian property is disposed of according to the testator’s wishes and without violating EU and Italian succession regulations. For example, through a Will, it is possible to dispose of one’s own assets in favour of charity entities, public associations, etc. It would, therefore be wise to seek the advice of a professional in the field.
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