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With regard to this issue, the general rule is that the law of the country whose nationality the deceased had
applies to the succession. Italian law allows derogations from this rule and a testator can designate the laws
of the State where he/she has his/her habitual residence to govern his/her succession.
The applicable law is the national law of the deceased, but it must be taken into consideration that the
national law can refer to Italian law or to another law. In a cross-border situation, a will is valid in principle
if it complies with the laws of the State where the will was drawn up or the laws of the State whose
nationality the testator held or where the testator had his/her residence at the time the will was drawn up or at
the time of his/her death.
The testator can choose the law of his/her country of residence, provided that he/she lives in the same
country at the time of death. For the succession of an Italian citizen, the choice does not affect the rights of
persons entitled to the reserved portion living in Italy when the succession is opened.
There are special forms that a person wanting to draw up a will must respect. Italian law recognizes, among
others, the following forms of wills:
a) a will executed before a civil law notary in the presence of two witnesses;
b) a sealed will drawn up by the testator and transmitted to a civil law notary subject to certain
c) a holographic will which must be written entirely by the testator with his/her own hand and signed
d) international wills.
A will can be registered with the register of wills, kept by the Minister of Justice, thanks to notarial records.
Inheritance Tax has been reintroduced starting from 3 October 2006 as follows:
a) if the heir is the spouse or a direct relative in law: tax rate 4% (no tax area up to € 1,000,000 for each
b) if the heir is a relative in law within the fourth degree, a direct collateral relative in law or a collateral
relative in law within the third degree: tax rate 6% (no tax area does not apply);
c) in the other cases: tax rate: 8% (no tax area does not apply).
Donation Tax was reintroduced starting from 29 November 2006. The tax rates applicable are the same
provided for the Inheritance Tax (i.e. 4-6-8%), depending on the degree of relationship of the beneficiary.
Furthermore, a more limited no-tax-area is provided for where the beneficiary is a brother or a sister.
Both for Inheritance & Donation Tax the evaluation of the business to be transferred must not take into
account the goodwill.
The Inheritance & Donation Tax does not apply in case of “family agreements” (art. 768-bis of the Italian
Civil Law Code) and transfers of businesses where the counterparts are members of the same family,
including the transfers of participations implying the acquisition of a controlling interest in the company. The
exemption applies only if the business’ activity is carried on during the five years following the transfer.
Please feel free to contact us for more information.
Accountant Filippo as English speaking Italian chartered accountant, Commercialista, will help you with the Wills and the Inheritance.