How to Write a Will in Italy

How to Write a Will in Italy

Basic rules for Writing a Will for Property Located in Italy

When a testator makes a choice of law that applies Italian law to the willing of property located in Italy, they cannot violate rules for mandatory distribution to family members: if the rules are violated, the heirs can either accept the will and respect the wishes of the deceased, or contest the will.

Probate in Italy is a Rarity 

Italian inheritance laws regulate in great detail many aspects of the conveyance of the estate to potential heirs. Both the testator and the heirs have little room to maneuver. It is for this reason that, unlike in the United States, Italian heirs do not usually need to go to court to manage succession (probate). Instead, heirs pay taxes and make land transfers for property to ensure that they are properly registered as landowners. Therefore, Italian probate, wherein the will is “proved” in court, is the exception, not the rule, and only occurs when the will is contested. 

<span “=””>Though it occurs less often than in the United States, Italian testators do make wills bequeathing assets to forced heirs within the boundaries set by law. This is done for two reasons: first to assign real estate or other assets to the individual heirs; second, to avoid the community-property that Italian intestate succession creates automatically between all heirs.

Types of wills in Italian Succession Law

The testator shall also follow rules regarding the formal validity of dispositions:         

Handwritten will: the will bequeathing property located in Italy is written, dated and signed entirely in the testator’s hand, and one or more copies of the will is kept in a safe place.

• Secret will: the will bequeathing property located in Italy is written, dated and signed entirely in the testator’s hand, then personally delivered to a notary in the presence of two witnesses. The notary shall keep the will with certain formalities.

Public will: the will is drafted at the notary’s office, it is read before two witnesses, and signed together with the notary and witnesses. 

The will shall be executed within ten years of the settlor’s death.

How to probate the will

In Italy, handwritten wills are brought to a notary public who simply reports the content and communicates said contents to the known heirs. Since secret wills in Italy are already at the notary’s office, they are probated immediately (in the same manner as handwritten wills). Finally, Italian public wills are already published and therefore need very little formality when submitted for succession.

Reports are then recorded in the Registry of Wills at the local courthouse. In Italy, the law only guarantees the notice of the will (to let people know about its existence), not the protection of the closest heirs and creditors. Therefore, if you think your rights regarding the estate are in need of protection, you should initiate a legal action, because the last will and testament in Italy is not “proved” in a court of law and the execution of it is not monitored by a judge.

Transnational wills

Different rules apply when the settlor has dual citizenship, is a US citizen or an Italian citizen living in the US. In such cases, the European Succession Regulation and the Italian Private International law may also apply.

Transnational wills are quite complicated, as they are subject to different national laws. Transnational wills that involve US and Italian components are subject to US, EU and Italian conflict-of-law rules.

The complexity of such wills can really only be understood only by reading case law or specific examples. Consequently, we strongly recommend that transnational wills be managed by an expert estate planner attorney, and when the disposition refers to an estate in Italy, it is appropriate to have the disposition also checked by an Italian attorney specialized in European and Italian Private International Law of Succession. 

Read more about the choice of law that a US, a Italian or a dual citizen can make to determine the jurisdiction and the substantial applicable law when bequeathing property or assets.