Protecting your Italian assets – where there’s a Will, there’s a way

  • Posted

If you hold assets located in Italy, it’s important to obtain legal advice to draw up a Will that covers them, regardless of whether or not you live there.

There are several reasons for doing this. If you have any specific wishes relating to the distribution of your Italian assets following your death then you need to put them in writing, in a Will that is considered legally valid in Italy. If you do not have a valid Will in place, your Italian Estate will pass to the beneficiaries set by law (in most cases the spouse and children).

The validity of your Will in Italy is crucial, particularly if it is drafted and/or signed abroad and to cover all your Italian assets, both present and future. For example, if you were to specify in your Italian Will that you wish to leave a specific property in Italy to your wife, but this is then sold during your lifetime, your Italian Will would not cover the proceeds of sale held in an Italian bank account.

Your Will must also take into consideration the Italian inheritance laws and succession procedures. In Italy certain relatives, such as the spouse and children, have a right to a percentage of the deceased’s estate regardless of the terms of the Will. This is known as forced heirship and it must be taken into consideration when drafting a Will relating to Italian assets, as it can somewhat limit your testamentary freedom.

However, there may be the possibility to avoid this restriction by electing for English law to apply to the Will and the succession (thereby allowing for more freedom in disposing of your assets) although you would need legal advice on whether this can be applied in your case and how to draft your Will so that the Italian forced heirship rules are avoided.

It is also important to consider the wording of the Will and the legal terminology used within.  A Will signed in England may potentially cover all your worldwide assets, including your Italian assets, but its wording may cause issues regarding the administration of your Italian estate in the future. Therefore, once again, it’s important to obtain legal advice on this subject.

When you also have a separate Will which covers any English assets (even if this Will excludes Italian assets), it’s important that your lawyer checks to ensure that there are no conflicts between the two Wills which could render one or both invalid and thereby potentially leave your assets exposed in both countries.

For more details on any of the information provided here or any other aspects of Italian law, please contact a member of our team.