Every year there are a number of people in the UK with Italian heritage find themselves unexpectedly in possession of an Italian property through the strict laws of succession in Italy. Often the recipient is unaware that they even had the distant relative who has passed away as the links between the family members in the UK and Italy may have weakened over the decades. Whilst the ownership of a house in Italy may initially be a pleasant surprise it should be noted that, unlike other countries where there is some thinking time before the full responsibility for the property is assumed; in Italy the beneficiaries of a property step straight into all the responsibilities associated with the deceased's estate, that includes any debts accruing against the property, as well as any taxes due which must be dealt with. The lawyers in the Giambrone wills and inheritance team are very familiar with this situation and can help you deal with all the liabilities and regulatory issues associated with the property that now fall on your shoulders.
The first step is to obtain a Grant of Probate, which can prove challenging in Italy as bureaucratic procedures can be burdensome and ponderous and it may be wise to use the services of English speaking Italian lawyers to ensure that there are no breaches or oversights in relation to the tax liabilities attached to your Italian house and to ensure that all the paperwork required by the Italian authorities is in good order. It should be noted that all the deceased's assets are required to be listed when applying for a Grant of Probate regardless of where they are located. The EU Succession Regulation 2015 harmonised the procedure relating to succession across most of Europe, excluding the UK, Ireland and Denmark who elected not to adopt this regulation. However, usually, there are bilateral treaties in force to determine the relevant tax liabilities on the foreign beneficiaries of an Italian inheritance by the Italian rules of intestacy set out in the civil code and EU regulation.
The additional documents required to be attached to the Grant of Probate are as follows: the deceased's death certificate, the family certificate relating to the deceased, together with that of the heirs and legatees as well and a copy of the will in Italian, if there is an Italian will.
You will be made aware of any debts or other liabilities attached to the property that require settlement and if you feel that there is too great a financial burden attached to the property you can renounce the inheritance. However, this step should only be considered after taking independent legal advice to make absolutely sure that the decision is taken in full knowledge of the situation and the consequences and that to do so is in your best interests.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.