The Evolving Landscape of Wills in Italy: Key Roles and Recent Legal Developments

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In Italy, where only about 10% of inheritances are executed through a will, understanding the nuances of testamentary practices is crucial. Each type of will has specific protocols, and recent legal developments have emphasized the roles of attorneys and notaries.

The Personal Holographic (Handwritten) Will: Entrusting an Attorney

The holographic will, entirely handwritten by the testator, is one of the most personal forms of wills in Italy. It must be dated and signed by the individual. While the will can be kept by a friend or a public notary, entrusting it to an attorney offers significant advantages. An attorney can act as the executor, ensuring that the will is not only safe but also that its directives are faithfully executed according to the testator’s wishes, providing invaluable peace of mind.

Thanks to the client-attorney relationship built during the making of the will, and the process through which information is received and kept by the attorney (regarding all heirs), there is no risk of the will being lost accidentally or intentionally (the latter being a criminal act). The attorney will ensure that all heirs named in the will are informed of the passing of the testator, and their last wishes as per their will.

The Notarial Will: Formalities and Confidentiality

When a holographic (handwritten) will is entrusted to a notary, it involves specific formalities. The testator must seal the will before handing it over to the notary, who then certifies its receipt, records its existence, and ensures its confidentiality until the testator’s death. This process guarantees the authenticity and security of the will.

The Notarial Dictation Will: Recent Court Ruling

A recent ruling by the Italian Supreme Court has changed the process of creating a notarial dictation will. In this method, the testator verbally communicates their wishes to a notary, who drafts the will in the presence of two witnesses. The new ruling stipulates that if the notary drafts the will outside the witnesses’ presence, they must then ask the testator to restate their wishes in front of the witnesses before all parties sign the document. This additional step is a measure to ensure the transparency and authenticity of the will, aligning with the principle that the testament should reflect the true intentions of the testator. (Cassazione, Ordinance n. 30221 of October 31, 2023).

The landscape of drafting and executing wills in Italy is intricate, with each type of will having distinct protocols and significance. The recent ruling on notarial dictation wills by the Italian Supreme Court underscores the ongoing evolution of legal practices in testamentary matters. Whether opting for the intimacy of a holographic will or the formal structure of a notarial will, it’s crucial to understand these legal nuances to ensure that your final wishes are honored and legally binding in Italy.