In reflecting on the possible content for this article on Italian inheritance matters I said to myself, perhaps we should call this series “What every Italian in Italy today knows but keeps under wraps from those living outside Italy”.
A rather long, however, effective title that hopefully will catch your attention. What’s the secret, you say Answer: Our grandparents or even parents forgot to tell the kids about the property, at times abandoned, in Italy. You know, nonno, never really talked much about the past.* I hear this refrain frequently. Well readers, in many cases it is still not too late to pick up the pieces It is our objective to allow you to understand your inheritance rights today and, if possible recover “abandoned” family assets of yesterday.
Since this series of articles does not even attempt to address the subject formally, we will try to convey certain basic concepts by scratching the surface using a “frequently asked question” format.
Q. If the property is still in my grandfather’s name, can I claim it
A. One must file a declaration of succession to start the process of transfer of title. If your father is still alive, he and his siblings would inherit it. If some of his siblings have passed on, your father and your cousins would inherit it. This is called in Italian legalize La Rappresentazione*.
Q. My father who was born in the US inherited his father’s property in Italy. My father left no will. Do I still have a right to my share of this property along with my siblings
A. Absolutely. The absence of a will has no bearing on your right to inherit However, more information is needed.
Q. How do find out who owns the family property in Italy today
A. Simple, perform a title search to discover who are the present owner(s). In the process you will obtain the size of the property, the zoning and use of the land today (pasture, olive groves, fruit orchards, farm land, house(s) on the property) and other interesting details.
Q. Will the title search tell me the history of the property
A. Not exactly, but it will provide the names and birth dates of other owners on title as of the date the title search was performed. These could be your long lost relatives or complete strangers who have taken over the land or are in the process of taking title by adverse possession.
Q. In today’s inheritance scheme, what is the relevance of the first male child
A. Absolutely none. The Civil Code, written in 1942 and still in force, put the sexes on an equal footing. The first male child references hark back to the days of monarchy and Statuto Albertino* (King Albert’s laws)