Most countries allow a Last Will and Testament, a legal document that, in accordance with the law, expresses the wishes of the person who writes the testament, namely the testator, on how his/her property should be distributed upon his/her death.
A succession may involve activities like searching for a will, searching for the deceased’s properties (e.g., real estate properties, bank accounts, and safety deposit boxes), contacting the authorities where the assets are located, paying possible inheritance taxes and other property related taxes and updating property records before all succession procedures can be completed.
In Italy, mortis causa succession is ruled differently based on the existence, or lack of, a valid will. An Italian will needs to account for the minimum shares called quote di riserva that are to be secured to the heirs that, by law, are closest in line to the deceased. Therefore, a testator cannot distribute his/her property per his/her own absolute decision. If the deceased did not make a will, rules of the intestate succession, in Italy called successione legittima, apply to the estate. Italian law regulates who has succession rights to the deceased’s estate and if the deceased has no relatives up to the sixth degree of kinship, the estate becomes property of the government. In any case, an individual with succession rights may or may not accept the inheritance.
Notwithstanding the above, for international successions cases, Italian law grants a way out of the minimum shares rules with L. 218/1995 art.46 that specifies the applicable law is the law of the country of the deceased. Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 further clarifies international succession cases confirming that “as a rule, the law applicable to the succession is the law of the country in which the deceased was usually living at their time of death. It can be the law of either a EU or a non-EU country.”
Therefore, one might be lead to believe that there is no need for a will for simple cases of successions. However, some countries invoke the rules of the country where assets are located creating a circular way back to Italian rules. Therefore, a will is always advisable in order to clarify which rules the deceased wishes to apply to his/her estate after his/her final departure.
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