The process of obtaining a Grant of Probate in Italy under the current Italian inheritance legislation may be rather daunting; under Italian inheritance laws, the beneficiaries step directly and immediately into the estate of the deceased and the Italian succession procedure is very different from the equivalent under English Law.
Due to the complex bureaucratic procedure, the amount of information and paperwork required by the competent Italian authorities, it is always a good idea to obtain advice and support from an English speaking Italian lawyer, expert in the field of Italian inheritance and succession laws in Italy, as different rules may apply to non-Italian beneficiaries of an Italian inheritance, whether received by Italian will or by intestacy. In all cases, it is advisable to consult an Italian law firm specialised in Italian succession and Italian probate matters, rules and procedures.
Where a person dies owning assets in two or more countries, it is frequently necessary for probate or the equivalent to be obtained in both or all countries where the assets are situated. For example, if a person dies domiciled in Italy holding assets in England and Italy, it will be necessary to go through two separate procedures to release the assets. In Italy, the beneficiaries of the Italian estate will need to obtain an Italian Grant of Probate known as Dichiarazione di Successione (Italian Certificate of Inheritance) to enable the Italian estate to be released. A separate Grant of Probate, or Letters of Administration if there is no Will, will need to be obtained in England to secure the release or transfer of the English assets.
If the estate is located in England and Wales but it is disposed of by means of an Italian will, you will be required to instruct an Italian probate lawyer to provide affidavits stating the validity of the Italian will according to the Italian legislation, which will need to be produced by the beneficiary in support of the application for the issuing of a grant of probate in England.
Under Italian inheritance laws, the beneficiaries step into the place of the deceased and they will become entitled to their share of the Italian estate (assets), but will also become subject to the deceased's debts and liabilities. If the debts and liabilities of the deceased exceed their assets, the heirs may instruct the lawyers to refuse the inheritance rights.
Regardless of whether the deceased died intestate or has determined testamentary succession through an Italian will, the filing of the application for an Italian Grant of Probate is required by the heirs within one year of death of the deceased. Any of the heirs – or the executor of the Italian will, if one has been appointed – can instruct an Italian probate lawyer or a notary public to attend to such formalities, and usually the costs of the probate in Italy are born by the estate and paid by the heirs pro-rata to their entitlement to the inheritance.
In order to proceed with the Italian Grant of Probate, the required application can usually be obtained from the Italian Ministry of Finance and all of the deceased’s assets need to be listed, regardless of whether such assets are located in Italy or abroad. There are complex rules of international private law that regulate the relationship between the estate and the beneficiaries, and from a tax perspective, usually there are bilateral treaties in force to determine the relevant liabilities on the foreign beneficiaries of an Italian inheritance, whether under a Will or by the Italian rules of intestacy set out in the civil code.
Once completed by the probate solicitors, the Grant of Probate application is sent to the competent Italian Tax authority (Agenzia delle Entrate) and the beneficiaries will be requested to pay the corresponding taxation related to the inheritance: usually, such taxation comprises inheritance tax liability (which depends on the value of the estate and the relationship with the deceased) and property transfer taxes (imposta ipotecaria and imposta catastale) which do not normally exceed 3% of the value of the Italian estate.
In addition to personal data regarding the deceased and their heirs, the Italian Grant of Probate application requires: (a) a detailed description of the inherited assets (b) details of the payment of taxes (mortgage and cadastral taxes) by the heirs and copies of relevant receipts (c) the application of a fixed rate (€168) for mortgage and cadastral taxes if the beneficiary of the real estate property will use it as his/her main home.
It is also necessary to attach to the Italian Grant of Probate: (a) the deceased’s death certificate, which should be translated into Italian if the deceased has passed away overseas (b) the family certificate of the deceased person and of the heirs and legatees (c) the original or legalised copy of the Will, duly translated into Italian, in case of a testamentary succession
Within 30 days from the submission of the Italian Grant of Probate, your lawyers would be required to submit to the Agency of the Territory the application for the “voltura catastale”, which is an application for the variation of the cadastral details in the registration deeds of the property. Through the “voltura” application process, the financial administration in Italy is formally informed that the assets (both land and properties) have been transferred from the deceased to his/her heirs or any legatees appointed under the Italian Will.
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