Forced Heirship

How forced heirship works in Italy and who is affected

forced heirship

In Italy the forced heirship law states that the closest family members (spouses, children, in some cases parents) are entitled to part of the overall assets; the law establishes how these assets are to be distributed. <span “=””>This means that the testator can’t freely dispose of all their assets.

Instead, the law dictates, to a certain extent, constraints which are placed on the succession process in Italy.

The ancient Romans came up with the idea of forced heirship because they wanted their assets to stay in the immediate family, or in Latin gentes (the clan of those individuals who shared the same family nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor). Forced heirship endures to this day in Italy as a way of insuring that succession is carried out fairly and that no immediate family member is left out.

Prohibition of disinheritance

The current Italian forced heirship law also states that the testator can’t simply disinherit immediate family members and can’t leave them a share of the estate less than that required by law. A falling out or a non-existent personal relationship is therefore not grounds for disinheritance.

Only in extreme cases (e.g. violence or the threat of violence against the testator) would a rightful heir be legally declared disinherited.

In all other cases immediate family members (forced heirs) inherit the minimum shares required by law. When there are no legitimate heirs in Italy or elsewhere, the testator is free to dispose of assets as they see fit.

Forced heirship and the right to contest the will

If the testator divides up the assets in a way that does not meet the standard of the law, rightful heirs can demand that any loss on their part can be made up from available assets or from other heirs who have received more than their reserved quota.

Alternately, disenfranchised rightful heirs can claim their part of the estate before a court of law and taking legal action to recover their reserved quota.

If you are the spouse or child of an Italian testator and think that you may have been wrongfully written out of a will, or have not received the proper reserved quota, contact us and we will advise you on your legal rights and the options available to you. 

Forced heirship and “reserved quota”

The principle of forced heirship is manifested mainly through a “reserved quota”. This “quota” indicates what shares of the estate are mandated by law for each of the forced heirs.

The table below shows the division of mandatory shares for immediate members of the family.

Reserved HeirsQuota distributable by the deceased in the manner of their choosingReserved Quota   to legitimate heirs (or mandatory heirs) in Italy
Spouse and one child1/31/31/30
Spouse and two/more children1/41/41/2*0
One child (no spouse)1/21/20
Two/more children (no spouse)1/32/3*0
Spouse (no child no parents)1/21/200
Spouse and parents1/41/201/4*
Parent/s (no spouse no children)2/31/3*

* The amount will be split in equal share between all
** The spouse has the right to live in the family house

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