A Last Will and testament is absolutely necessary to avoid causing conflicts among your heirs, especially if you are a foreign citizen who owns goods and property in Italy. Not only can a Will allow you to assign your inheritance to the appropriate beneficiary, but it could also be useful to prevent problems for your heirs, and it could even enable you a tax saving. Let’s see more specifically each case.
Those who are married or in a registered partnership and without children
Many married and childless people believed that, even without making a Last Will and Testament, their property automatically passes to their spouse. This is true, but only in the absence of siblings, and in the event that the parents are no longer alive. Otherwise, the spouse only has the right to a part of the inheritance, the other part is shared among their parents and siblings. We should also bear in mind that where siblings are pre-deceased, their respective descendants take the quota due to them, for the mechanism of ‘representation’. By making a Will, on the other hand, it is possible to leave the entire estate to the spouse, or determine what should go to the spouse (for example the main house and the money) and what to the other relatives. The same rules valid for married couples are also applicable to those who are part of a registered partnership. Even in this case, therefore, if there are no children, it is appropriate to make a Will if you want to leave the entire inheritance to your partner, or at least to define what to leave to your partner and what to the other family members.
Those who have children
For those with children, a Will is less important, since their rights are protected by Italian law. However, it is advisable to make a Will if you prefer to establish how the assets must be distributed among your children, to prevent any quarrel or misunderstanding (unfortunately very frequent in the partition of inheritance among the family). Also note that the distribution of the assets decided by the Will prevents the heirs from the higher expenses of a subsequent partition instrument. Lastly, the testament allows to ‘balance the accounts’ among the children, in case only one of them has benefited from a donation made by their parents while they were alive, but not formalized in a notarial deed. This can happen when the parents helped a child to buy their house, to start a business or to repay debts. In this case it may be appropriate to specify these situations in a Will, while providing for a greater share of the inheritance in favour of the other children.
Those who want to benefit other persons or institutions
Those who wishes to leave something to a friend or a charitable organization can do so only through a Will. You can leave a sum of money or a certain asset. In the absence of legitimate heirs, it is also possible to leave the entire inheritance.
Those who are not married nor in a registered partnership and without children
Making a Will is particularly important for those who are not married nor in a registered partnership and without children. With a Will, it is possible to choose heirs rather than letting the law identify them.
Currently, the Italian law does not provide any rights to inheritance for cohabitants. Therefore, in the presence of a de facto couple the only instrument available to transmit, in whole or in part, their assets to the cohabitant is through a Will.
If you change your mind
In any case, a Will can always be revised at any time, so if over time your situation changes, or you have changed your mind, you can adapt or revoke your Will in a simple and quick way. We always recommend that you should review your Will every 3 – 5 years.
For more information about Italian inheritance
We have produced a comprehensive guide, which you can download.