Inheritance Issues: Common Mistakes of Aliens Heirs


Inheritance issues

Most foreigners are unaware of many Italian inheritance statutes and judicial limitations which don’t correspond to the Common Law system but nevertheless represent inheritance issues that foreign heirs often don’t discover until it is too late. These issues can lead to a loss of assets or even, in the most extreme cases, the entirety of one’s inheritance. The following are a few mistakes you should avoid when accepting your inheritance and dealing with Italian succession law.

Inheritance Mistakes To Avoid

  1. FIRST. Your share of the inheritance must be formally accepted within ten years of the opening of succession (meaning the day of death). If you do not accept it within this statutory limit, you may no longer claim your inheritance. Read more about the Ten-Year Rule for accepting your inheritance in the Italian legal system.
  2. SECOND. Paying taxes on an estate does not amount to formal acceptance of the inheritance. Time and again Italian jurisprudence has affirmed this principle in court. Only a formal public acceptance within the ten-year statutory limit is considered valid. 
  3. THIRD. Leaving the management of an estate to family members does not protect you against the ten-year statutory limit for acceptance of inheritance; nor does it guarantee your protection against  “usucapione” (adverse possession). Usucapione is an Italian legal principle wherein individuals who are not lawfully entitled to an asset or property can become the legal owners if they are in possession of the asset for 20 years (provided it was not attained by force or theft). Read more about usucapione.

Inheritance Issues Unknown To American Heirs

Many of our clients are heirs to Italian estates, but have made no formal legal moves for an extended period of time and are now faced with the severe statutory limitations that is found in Italian succession law. Most of these statutes have little or no comparison to those in the U.S. legal system and are therefore are unknown to our American clients. Our attorneys work to clarify these issues to our foreign clients and help them better understand how to reach their objectives.

If you feel you have encountered any or all of these inheritance issues, or fall into one of these categories, call us or write an email explaining your case today. If Italian succession law seems overwhelming, MY LAWYER IN ITALY® can provide you with the council you need.