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New European Succession Law – What if you buy or own property in Italy

If you own or are planning to own a property in Italy, it's important you understand the new succession law and how it may affect you

Written by Samanta Crocetti on 26 May 2015

Italy is one of the most sought after destinations for Brits in search of a second home in the sun, so much so that in recent decades they have formed their own veritable communities scattered around this beautiful country.

Just think of the famous Chianti area in Tuscany, which is now also amusingly referred to in Italian as ‘Chiantishire’ (with the English -shire suffix), as many Brits have bought a house there. This trend is constantly growing, especially now that the pound is strong and Italy has become a real bargain in terms of real estate.

However, one of the aspects few people think about when about to buy a house in a foreign country such as Italy is the hereditary factor linked to their assets in this country. This is equally important as anything else and should not be underestimated, especially with the forthcoming introduction of new regulations on the law of succession in the European Union (EU Regulation 650/2012).

Thinking about who will be left the property and those who will inherit it are basic questions you need to ask yourself when you buy property, in order to better manage your assets.

The new European law of succession will take effect from 17 August 2015, and will overcome the contrast and fragmentation of the rules which currently govern international jurisdiction, and furthermore the wide range of authorities involved in the context of an international succession which effectively hampers the free movement of people within the EU. The UK, Ireland and Denmark have not yet signed the agreement, but there are nevertheless aspects that still concern the British who have bought or will buy a house in Italy, or in one of the other member states.

What does this mean?

At a general extend, in terms of succession, the country setting the rules will no longer be the one where the individual is a national, but that in which the person making a will is a ‘habitual resident’ at the time of death. [Habitual residency means the place where the deceased had the strongest connections in terms of emotional interest etc., and does not necessarily coincide with their tax residence; therefore it must be evaluated in each case].

There is also the possibility of choosing which of these two countries the law referring to their assets should apply to, be it that which they are a national of, or that where they have ‘habitual residence’. The regulations have at last been approved to extend application to all aspects of civil law of succession due to death.

What will change for a British person buying a home in Italy?

For British residents in the UK who have a property in Italy the law will not change anything, though many things will change for those who have moved to this beautiful country.

Currently in fact, if you live abroad, it will be the laws of your national country that will be applied to the assets you possess abroad, but if it is an EU country like Italy, Italian law will be applied at the time of departure.

However, when this is explicitly required, the law also says that in this case you have the ability to choose for yourself before you apply the law of your own country, as opposed to the country in which you reside habitually. To this end, the Regulation has provided for the creation of the European Certificate of Succession within the Member States.

If you opt to apply Italian law, it will be required as of 17 August 2015 of every Italian notary to adhere to regulations, and will allow the heirs, testamentary executors or administrators of the estate to assert their rights abroad.

So for anyone considering moving to Italy or who has already moved there, it is recommended that you inquire about these regulations to avoid disappointment.

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