Foreigners that are thinking about moving their residence to Italy might be interested in knowing more about Italian succession law.
Indeed, according to EU Regulation n. 650/2012, the law of Succession is not determined by the nationality of the deceased but rather taking into consideration the country of the last habitual residence. Foreigners, however, can dispose of otherwise in their will, opting for the law of their nationality. This choice of law will operate only if, at time of the death, they will still be citizens of the specific country chosen.

If applicable, Italian succession law will regulate all the property of the deceased, regardless of their location in the world.
Italy also recognizes reserved rights to certain heirs, specifically the spouse, the children and, in their absence, the ascendants. This means that the testator cannot dispose entirely of his property but has to leave a reserved share to the mentioned relatives.
Forced heirs cannot renounce their rights to inherit until the death of the testator. The intention of this forced heirship is to protect the rights of the family and to prevent outsiders from persuading elderly to disinherit their children.

Italian law recognizes three types of wills: public, holographic and secret wills,

Public wills are received in the presence of two witnesses before a Notary, who keeps them in their archive. Notwithstanding the name, these wills are not public but will be published by the notary after the death of the deceased.
Holographic wills must be fully handwritten by the testator, signed and dated. They are easier to make but the testator should make sure that they will be found at the time of his death.
Finally, a secret will is a document written [1] and signed by the testator and sealed. The sealed envelope must be handed to a Notary in front of two witnesses and will be kept as a public will.

Wills made in a form recognized by a foreigner’s national law are also recognized in Italy, but the process of proving a foreign will could be slower, and more expensive. In this case, it is advisable to comply with the International will regulation, which is applicable in Italy [2] and could be convenient in case the testator has properties located in multiple countries.

If an Italian resident dies without a will, the estate will be distributed according to Italian civil code [3], that divides the property into shares between the spouse and children, in their absence to the ascendants, siblings, and relatives. If the deceased did not leave any family member and did not dispose of his inheritance in a will, the estate will be distributed to the Italian government.

Italian inheritance taxes apply to the whole inheritance if Italian law is applicable to the succession or only to properties and possessions located in Italy, regardless of the residence or the nationality of the deceased.
Taxation rates are applied according to the relationship between the deceased and the heir.
For the spouse and direct descendants, the tax rate is 4% of the value of the inherited goods and there is an exemption of 1,000,000 euro for each heir.
For siblings, the exemption is only for 100,000 euro and the tax rate is 6%.
For other relatives, the same tax rate applies without any exemption. Finally, outsiders pay 8% without any exemption.

An extremely favorable regimen is disposed of for the disabled person (with an exemption of 1,500,000 euro regardless the relationship with the deceased) and for non-profit organizations, that can benefit a full exemption.

Furthermore, if the inheritance contains real estate properties, all heirs must also pay the cadastral and mortgage fee, amounting to 3% of the cadastral value, with the sole exception of non-profit organizations.

The declaration of succession must be submitted to the Italian Revenue Agency within a year from the death and must list all the properties of the estate and their values, in order to calculate the relevant tax. Heirs, beneficiaries, curators, and executors are obliged to present the declaration to avoid penalties.



1) If the testator cannot write the Italian Civil Code provides alternative means of reductio.
2) Law 387/1990 that ratified the Washington Convention of the 26/10/1973.
3) Articles 565 and following Italian Civil Code.

Giulia Proietti

Giulia Proietti - Civil Law Notary

Civil Law Notary
Ph.D. in Business Law and Economics, US and Italian Attorney at Law; specialized in Commercial law, Real Estate, Trusts, Social Entrepreneurship, Non Profit Organisations and Benefit Corporation.
Has been counselling and assisting internationally start-ups and corporations for the last five years in Italy and in the US.
She is also founder and President of Equoevento, the first organisation fighting food waste at events.