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United States Apostille: Italian Estate Planning and Succession

When a portion of a foreign citizen's inheritance is located in Italy, the individual retains residency in Italy, or the individual has dual citizenship, they may be subject to Italian inheritance rules.

When assets located in Italy are disputed, Italian succession law usually applies, and this is a direct result of the European Succession Regulation's provisions, which in several cases indicates (choice of law) the applicable law of succession of the Member States, both for the jurisdiction and the substantive law of succession.

Both Americans with links to Italy and Italians with ties to the United States want more freedom when it comes to deciding on a distribution method. This may be accomplished through appropriate estate planning, which is a difficult legal task when dealing with cross-border succession between Italians and Americans. The ability of Italian inheritance attorneys to manage US, European, and Italian choice-of-law systems is critical to the effectiveness of such preparation.

Probate is a Rarity in Italy

Many facets of the transfer of an estate to potential successors are regulated in considerable detail by Italian inheritance laws. Both the testator and the heirs are limited in their options. As a result, unlike in the United States, Italian heirs seldom resort to court to settle succession disputes (Italian probate). To guarantee that they are officially recognized as landowners, they pay taxes and undertake land transfers for property (Cadastre). As a result, in Italy, probate law, in which the will is "proven" in court, is the exception rather than the rule, and occurs only when the will is disputed.

Inheritance by will and forced heirsthip

In Italy, there are several legislative restrictions on succession. To begin with, people transferring property after death must adhere to the rules governing designated quotas for close family members, namely the husband and children (forced heirs). Testators can choose which heirs receive what, but the reserved quota proportions cannot be changed. Following that, the law permits the testator to distribute the estate how he or she thinks proper (quota freely available to the testator). Only in rare cases can these regulations be disregarded in Italian-American cross-border successions.

The Intestate Succession

If there is no will, Italian inheritance rules dictate quotas. Immediate family members are the first to be considered (spouse, children or even parents depending on the age of the testator). In the absence of them, second-degree relatives (brothers and sisters), third-degree relatives, and so on are considered. Before the state takes over, the procedure can proceed up to the sixth degree (intestate succession). The law aims to assure the presence of an heir by involving so many degrees of kin.

Automatic heirs

In some cases, inheritance laws in Italy allow a person that owns the testator's property to immediately become an heir without the requirement for the testator's express consent. Obviously, this is how the majority of Italian heirs are treated: the position of heir is conferred solely on the basis of asset ownership.

Succession Tax Statement

In Italy, a declaration of succession must be filed with the Agenzia delle Entrate within one year after the testator's death, otherwise the testator's estate would be subject to escalating fines with each passing year. Because tax authorities regard inheritance to be an indivisible whole, people who pay the taxes must pay them for the full estate and cannot split them up.

Succession Timing and Successors not living in Italy

The succession, based on the above, is a reasonably rapid procedure. However, it is possible that a successor is unaware of the deceased's death, or is aware but lacks any assets, or fails to complete an act of exceptional administration (for which he or she would automatically become heir). This relative may, for example, be residing in another country. If none of the other heirs (who have accepted inheritance) asks the court for a deadline, the aforementioned successor has the option of accepting the inheritance for up to 10 years.

Italian Inheritance Laws: The Ten-Year Rule

The ten-year timeframe mentioned above is obligatory (Ten-Year Rule). There are a few scenarios in which you may be able to reach an agreement, depending on the facts of your case.

Italian Succession and Co-Ownership of the Estate

The inheritance of an estate is recognized in its full under Italian property inheritance law. This means that numerous heirs (if they agree) will share ownership of the entire estate. If a testator leaves two houses and a plot of land to his wife and three children, all four of them become co-owners of the buildings and the land, but in different shares. After assuming possession of the estate, heirs might request a split of assets.

Expert Lawyer support

Because the rights of heirs and succession processes are well-defined by Italian inheritance laws, an Italian succession lawyer specializing in inheritance matters can assist a settlor in a number of ways, the most effective of which is by drafting a will that allows the settlor of a cross-border succession to bequeath his or her assets with the greatest amount of freedom permitted by EU and Italian succession rules.

In Italy, an attorney who specializes in succession law can represent an illegitimately excluded successor in court and defend the heir's rights when he or she has been left with less than the law would have allowed (such as when the deceased gifted in his life to other heirs: collation of estate and gifts).

Apostille for Italian Inheritance

There is no margin for error with the authentication or apostille process. If mistakes are made, both your time and money will be wasted and you'll have to start all over again. If you want to look into outsourcing this part of preparing to studying abroad to someone with experience, please email me at or call 848-467-7740 to request my services or learn more.

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