Searching for Wills in Italy

When a loved one passes away, dealing with their estate can be a complex and emotional process. One crucial aspect is locating their last will and testament, as it outlines their final wishes and distribution of assets. My clients often engage me when they need assistance with searching for wills in Italy. Moreover, it is not uncommon for executors and beneficiaries to face difficulties in finding the original will, even if they have a copy or have been informed of its existence.

In Italy, searching for wills can present unique challenges. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of finding a will in Italy, exploring the legal framework, search methods, and potential obstacles.

Searching for Wills in Italy: Understanding the Legal Framework

To embark on our quest, it is essential to familiarize ourselves with the legal framework surrounding wills in Italy. The Italian legal system recognizes three main forms of wills: formal wills, holographic wills, and sealed or secret wills. Each type has specific requirements and implications. Notably, formal wills are drafted by a public notary, witnessed, and kept in the notary’s possession until the testator’s death. On the other hand, holographic wills are entirely handwritten, dated, and signed by the testator, while sealed or secret wills are handwritten, placed in a sealed envelope, and entrusted to a public notary.

Initiating the Search

1. Identifying the Relevant Authorities:
When searching for a will in Italy, it is important to identify the appropriate authorities responsible for will registration. Typically, the local Court of Last Resort (Tribunale di Sorveglianza) oversees the registration of wills. Additionally, the District Chamber of Notaries (Consiglio Notarile distrettuale) and the General Will Registry Bureau (Registro Generale dei Testamenti) play significant roles in the search process.

2. Gathering Essential Documents:
Before commencing the search, gather the necessary documents, including the death certificate, proof of your relationship with the deceased, and any information regarding the existence or location of a will. These documents will be required when submitting search requests to the relevant authorities.

Navigating Potential Obstacles When Searching for Wills in Italy

1. Language Barriers:
One of the challenges encountered in searching for wills in Italy is the potential language barrier. Given that Italian legal documents are written in Italian, this may pose difficulties for non-native speakers. Engaging the services of a professional translator or interpreter can greatly facilitate the process, ensuring accurate understanding and effective communication.

2. Multiple Locations and Types of Wills:
Another obstacle in the quest for a will is the possibility of multiple locations and various types of wills. Given Italy’s recognition of different forms of wills, the search process can become complicated. Therefore, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive search, covering all potential locations and types of wills, to maximize the chances of success.

Exploring Alternative Search Methods

1. Notary Archives Registry Office:
Submitting a request to the Notary Archives Registry Office can be highly beneficial. This office is responsible for preserving deeds and wills deposited by notaries who have ceased their business. Additionally, the General Will Registry Bureau, headquartered at the Main Office of the Notary Archives in Rome, serves as another valuable resource for searching for wills in Italy.

2. International Basel Convention:
If the deceased had connections with countries that have adhered to the International Basel Convention, it may be possible to request the issuance of the decedent’s will through the General Will Registry Bureau. This convention allows for collaboration between participating countries in searching for wills.


Searching for a will in Italy requires patience, diligence and an understanding of the unique Italian legal framework. From identifying the relevant authorities to navigating potential obstacles, the journey can be both challenging and rewarding. If you need assistance with searching for wills in Italy, do not hesitate to reach out to me. As a professional in this field, I have extensive experience in helping clients locate wills and navigate the complexities of Italian inheritance law. Moreover, remember that finding the original will, rather than a copy, is crucial for the probate process.

Have you encountered challenges in searching for a will? What strategies did you find helpful? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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