Inheritance Division in Italian Law

Italian law allows for two main scenarios regarding the division of an inheritance (Articles 713-736 of the Italian Civil Code):

  1. Division by Will: if the deceased has a will that specifies how the estate should be divided, their wishes are followed.
  2. Division by Heirs: if there is no will, things become more complex:
    • Acceptance and Joint Ownership: heirs must first accept the inheritance, becoming joint owners (“comunione ereditaria”).
    • Tax Payment and Division Choice: after inheritance taxes are paid, heirs can choose to:
      • Remain in Joint Ownership: maintain the property as shared ownership.
      • Divide the Estate: split the assets amongs themselves.

Division Process

The division process can be either:

  • Agreed upon: heirs reach an agreeent on how to divide the assets. This agreement must be signed by all heirs in writing and notarized.
  • Requested by a Judge: if an agreement cannot be reached, any heir can request the court to intervene.

Court-ordered Division

The judge will propose a division plan (Art. 785 Italian Code of Civil Procedure). If everyone agrees, the division is executed.

If there is any disagreement on the plan, the judge will manage these arguments and issue a final decision.

Division Scenarios

  • Phisical Division: if the assets can be physically divided (e.g. land parcels), the judge’s decision will be implemented.
  • Sale and Distribution: if physical division is not possible (e.g. a single house), the property will be auctioned (Art. 720 Civil Code). Proceeds will then be distributed to the heirs based on their legale inheritance shares.

Key points

  • Wills provide clarity on inheritance division.
  • Without a will, heirs become joint owners and decide on division of the inheritance after taxes have been paid.
  • Division of the inheritance can be agreed upon or requested through the court.
  • Judges propose plans, decide on disagreements, and rule on the final division.
  • Physical division is preferred, but sale and distribution can occur if necessary.