Will in Italy: Don’t Leave Your Legacy to Chance

Having a will is crucial, especially for foreign citizens who own assets and properties in Italy. It not only assigns inheritance to the appropriate beneficiary but also prevents conflicts and even enables tax savings. Let’s take a closer look at each case with examples.

What is a Will?

Many married couples without children believe that their assets and property automatically pass to their spouse. This is true, but only if the decedent has no siblings, and parents are no longer alive. In all other cases, the spouse only has the right to a portion of the inheritance, with the remaining amount shared among parents and siblings. By creating a will, however, one can leave the entire estate to the spouse or determine how to divide assets between the spouse and other relatives. The same rules apply to those in registered partnerships. Therefore, if there are no children, it is essential to make a will if one wishes to leave the entire inheritance to the partner or define what to leave to the partner and what to other family members.

Example: Sarah and John are a married couple with no children. They own a property in Italy and want to ensure that the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate. Therefore, they decide to create a will leaving the entire property to the surviving spouse.

Will in Italy: Married with children

For those with children, a will is less crucial since their rights are protected by Italian law. However, it is advisable to create a will to establish how assets should be distributed among children to prevent disputes or misunderstandings during the partition of the inheritance.

Example: Piero has two children, Luca and Martina, and he wants to leave 60% of his assets to Luca and 40% to Martina, he can specify this in his will. The distribution of assets decided by the will also prevents higher expenses for the heirs.

Lastly, a testament allows balancing accounts among children, especially if one has benefited from a donation by their parents while alive, but it was not formalized in a notarial deed. For instance, if Piero gave a valuable painting to Martina while he was alive, but did not specify it in a notarial deed, he might want to leave a larger share of his assets to Luca to balance things out.

Will in Italy: Benefitting other persons or institutions

Leaving something to a friend or a charitable organization in Italy is only possible through a will. One 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.

Example: Julia is a US citizen who owns a house in Italy. She has no family members in Italy or the USA and wants to leave her property to a local animal shelter after her death. She creates a will specifying her wish to leave the entire estate to the animal shelter.

Will in Italy: Single without children

Making a will is particularly important for single people without children. A will enables them to choose their heirs rather than leaving it to Italian law to identify them.

Example: Giovanni is an unmarried man without children. He owns a business and several properties in Italy. He creates a will specifying that his assets should be divided equally among his siblings after his death.

Will in Italy: Cohabitants

Italian law does not provide inheritance rights for cohabitants. The only way for cohabitants to transmit their assets, wholly or partly, to each other is through a will.

Example: Paolo and Luca are a same-sex couple who have been living together for many years. They own a property in Italy, which they want to leave to each other after their death. They create a will specifying their wish to leave the entire property to the surviving partner.

Changing Your Mind

It’s essential to keep your will up-to-date, as changes in circumstances may require adjustments to your will. You might need to update your will if you’ve had another child, entered into a new marriage or partnership, or if you’ve acquired new assets such as a property. You can easily and quickly revise or revoke your will at any time, provided that you have the legal capacity to do so.


In Italy, a last will and testament is an important legal document to ensure the distribution of your assets according to your wishes after your death. A will is particularly important for unmarried people or those without children, as well as those who want to leave something to a friend or a charitable organization. For married couples or couples who have children, creating a will can help avoid potential conflicts among your heirs and ensure a fair distribution of assets.

Remember, making a will in Italy is a simple process that can provide peace of mind and security for you and your loved ones. It’s best to consult with a legal professional who can advise you on the most effective ways to structure your will according to your specific circumstances. So, don’t wait until it’s too late to create a last will and testament, take the necessary steps to ensure that your assets are managed according to your wishes, and avoid potential disputes that could arise after your death.

Have you made a will for your Italian assets and property? If so, what motivated you to do so? If not, what has held you back from creating one? Have you ever witnessed any conflicts among family members or friends after someone’s death due to the absence of a will? How did it impact the relationships between the heirs? What advice would you give to someone who is considering creating a will but feels overwhelmed by the process? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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