Italian Inheritance Law: Basic Principles



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Italian inheritance law is based on the Roman Law, and it aims at protecting close members of the family, partially limiting the right of the testator to dispose of his/her assets.

“Testamentary Succession” can be defined as the transfer of hereditary assets in compliance with the decisions of the testator, as set out in an Italian Will.

In absence of a Will, the assets are assigned following the principles of the Legal Succession. The Italian Civil Code indicates a number of subjects (defined as “legitimate heirs”) who take over the assets of the deceased. Such heirs are the spouse of the deceased and the relatives identified by the law (from closest relatives to 6th degree of kinship). In simple terms, lacking a Will, the Italian legislator decided to advantage family members rather than other parties. In absence of relatives within the 6th degree of kinship, the inheritance is devolved to the Italian State.

The principles of testamentary and legal succession cross merge the principle of “necessary succession”.

The Civil Code reserves to very close relatives (spouse, ascendants and descendents, defined as “forced heirs”) an important quota of the inheritance that the testator cannot prejudice with his/her Will. In such a way the legislator determined to protect close family members by preventing the testator from the possibility of completely excluding them from the inheritance. It is also essential to remember that married partners and separated partners have exactly the same rights. The same is not true for divorced partners: with the divorce all inheritance rights are terminated.

When drafting an Italian Will and ( Probates), the testator is free to arrange a part of his/her assets, defined as “disposable quota” (in contrast with the “reserved quota” assigned to close relatives). In short the wish of the testator to assign his/her assets to beyond closest relatives is accepted by the law, but it is partially limited. An Italian Will infringing on the rights of the “forced heirs” is not necessarily invalid. Such a Will is enforceable unless it is challenged in Court by the “forced heirs” through legal action called, abatement of the inheritance.


Please note, any statement made in this article is intended to be a general practical introductory explanation only and not advice. This firm accepts no liability or any responsibility for any statement made

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: De Tullio Law Firm
De Tullio Law Firm is an international law firm specialized in Italian cross border real estate transactions, and Italian inheritance law. Along the years, it has gained a wide experience in the real estate field, as well as providing assistance with wills & probates, EU law, litigation, arbitration, taxes and corporate law. De Tullio Law Firm is listed on the British and American embassies websites, and contributes as legal expert with several publications.
Our aim is to assist our clients in the best possible way by giving independent legal advice, but we also try to inform and educate our on-line visitors on the basics and beyond.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.



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