In this article we will discuss the basic steps to inherit a real estate property located in Italy. Italian inheritance laws are somehow different with respect to the United States laws on the same subject, one of the major differences being the “mandatory heir rule” which we will examine below. Also, the involvement of the probate court in Italy during the inheritance process is more limited compared to the United States.
Is Claiming Your Italian Inheritance Cost-effective?
According to the Italian succession laws, the beneficiaries of a will or intestate succession are not required to accept any sort of assets bequeathed to them, including real estate properties. Whether or not accepting inheritance in Italy depends on a number of factors, such as estate liabilities, succession taxes, property taxes, market value, among others.
The Italian law sets forth that, except for specific cases determined by the deceased in the will, once the beneficiary has elected to accept the estate, he is required to accept said estate as a whole. The designated heir is not entitled to choose which asset to inherit and which to discharge.
This requirement might be tricky because if the estate’s liabilities are larger than the value of the estate’s assets, accepting the estate as a whole in most cases is not going to be worth it.
Based on the foregoing, before making any decision as to whether or not accepting the inheritance, it is highly recommended to conduct a thorough investigation on the estate’s assets and liabilities. A joint effort of lawyers, accountants and other professionals may do the trick and may be worth the money, in order to avoid future undesired and unexpected scenarios.
Always keep in mind that the statute of limitations in order to accept Italian inherited properties (of any kind) expires in 10 years running from the date of the deceased’s passing.
Also, keep in mind that acceptance of the estate may be express (by filing the appropriate paperwork as hereinafter described) or implied, in case you hold physical or legal possession of the assets even before filing an express acceptance. One very important rule to consider is that once the inheritance is accepted, you will never be able to change your choice, based on the principle of “semel heres semper heres” (once heir, always heir).
Steps to Claim Your Italian Inheritance
In order to claim your Italian inheritance, the following steps are required:
- If there is a will and the will has been created in the United States or other countries other than Italy, you will be required to translate the will in the Italian language. Translation should be a sworn translation issued by a certified translator. Once the document is translated in Italian it requires to be apostilled. The Apostille is a special certification attached to your original document to verify that same is authentic so it will be accepted in Italy, pursuant to the Hague Apostille Convention. Most countries are signatories to the Hague convention, including Italy and United States.
- A so-called “statement of succession” for inheritance tax purposes should be filed with the Italian internal revenue agency (Agenzia delle Entrate).
- In absence of a will, the Italian internal revenue agency shall require an affidavit stating that you are the intestate beneficiary of the succession (accompanied by Italian certified translation thereof).
- The death certificate is to be provided (accompanied by an Italian certified translation thereof).
- An Italian social security number (e.g.: Codice Fiscale) is to be obtained.
Once the foregoing steps are completed, you will be able to register in your name the inherited Italian real estate properties, as well as bank accounts, cars and other similar assets that require an official registration.
Italian Inheritance Law. Basic Principles
Succession in Italy may be by will or intestate. One basic rule in case that a will exists is that some family members are entitled to receive at least a portion of the estate assets, no matter what the provisions of the will are.
For instance, if the deceased was married and / or had children and left a will by which he bequeathed all of his / her assets to some people or organizations outside the family, despite the will’s dispositions spouse and children shall be entitle to challenge the will in court and redeem the majority of the estate’s assets against the designated beneficiaries (so called “mandatory heirship rule”).
This principle may sound very unfamiliar to United States citizens, or even to citizens of other countries, but it’s very important to keep in mind when you are dealing with your Italian inheritance.
A will may be challenged before probate court not only on the grounds of the violation of Italian succession laws such as those described above, but also on the grounds that the will is not an expression of the deceased’s free determination but it has been created under duress or the deceased was not in a sane state of mind. Challenging a will on the grounds of duress or insanity, however, is not quite common in Italy as much as in the United States.
Applicable Law in Cross-border Inheritance Matters
According to the most recent principles of the International Private Laws, the applicable law in cross border inheritance matters is the law of the deceased’s residence at the time of death or the law that the deceased has designated in the will. However, some exceptions may apply. If the deceased’s last place of residence was the United States and the deceased estates encompasses real estate properties located in Italy, the Italian law shall defer to the U.S. law as the applicable law, but the U.S. law, in turn, shall distinguish between real estate properties and other types of assets, and shall revert to the Italian law as to said real properties. As a result, if a person resides in the United States at the time of his / her death and his / her estate comprises of pieces of real property, the Italian law shall apply to those properties.
Placing Your Inherited Italian Property on the Market
Once you have inherited the Italian assets and registered them in your name, you may decide to hold on to those pieces of Italian real estate or you may decide to put them on the market. While in the United States real estate purchases are typically handled by attorneys, in Italy at least the title search and the closing is a job for the notary. Lawyers in Italy, in fact, take care only of the initial purchase agreement. Closing costs are generally borne by the buyer, but it’s really up to the parties to mutually determine who’s going to pay what.
Bardazzi Law is a law firm based out in New York, formed by attorneys licensed to practice both in Italy and in the United States. If you inherited a piece of real estate or other assets located in Italy, Bardazzi Law through their Italian associates, is well suited to assist you and guide you throughout the entire Italian inheritance process and even afterwards if you decide to put your house on the market.
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