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Inheriting an Italian estate 

If you are dealing with the inheritance of Italian assets, it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you are not an Italian citizen yourself. You will probably have a number of questions about how to deal with the Italian estate such as: How do you obtain Italian probate? What inheritance laws apply to the Italian estate? Is there inheritance tax to pay in Italy? And many more!

The answers may vary depend on the individual situation: where the deceased was domiciled, whether they were resident in Italy; whether there is a valid will; what the value of the estate is, for instance.

In order to deal with the Italian estate, the executors or beneficiaries will need to obtain the Italian equivalent of a Grant of Probate. An Italian Grant of Probate is called Dichiarazione di Successione also known as a Statement of Succession, Declaration of Succession or Italian Certificate of Inheritance.

Unless you are fluent in Italian and familiar with the probate process in Italy, you will need to instruct an Italian inheritance and probate lawyer to  guide you through the Italian inheritance process. Worldwide Lawyers can assist you in dealing with inheritance of assets in Italy. Please feel free to contact us for a no-obligation quote.

We have, however, set out some of the main steps to successfully administering an Italian estate:

Obtain the death certificate

In order to obtain probate in Italy a copy of the death certificate is an essential requirement, so you should get a copy of the death certificate as soon as possible, to avoid delaying the process.

If the deceased died in Italy in order to obtain the death certificate, you will need to provide copies of the deceased’s (and applicant’s) personal ID and tax code. The death certificate will be issued by the Registry of Vital Records (Ufficio Anagrafe e Stato Civile) in the municipality where the deceased passed away. The death certificate will need to be translated and notarised to obtain a Grant of Probate, or equivalent, in the deceased’s home country (see more on obtaining the Grant of Probate below).

If the deceased died in another country (ie not in Italy), in order to deal with the assets in Italy your Italian lawyer will require the original death certificate and original Grant of Probate (or equivalent), both of which must have the Apostille of The Hague affixed at the Foreign & Commonwealth office. A translation will also be required.

Establish whether the deceased had a valid will and which laws apply to the estate

It is important to ascertain whether the deceased has a valid will and in which country the will was written, as this will affect the process of obtaining probate. You can find out from the General Will Registry Bureau (Registro Generale dei Testamenti), based in Rome, whether the deceased had an Italian will or not. If the deceased had other assets worldwide you should also check whether they had a will in the other countries where their assets are based. Some countries have a central wills registry but many, like the UK, do not.

You will probably find that one of the following scenarios applies:

  • The deceased has Italian assets and they have a will based in their home country (not Italy)
  • The deceased has Italian assets and there is only an Italian will
  • The deceased has Italian assets and there is both an Italian will and another will(s) to cover assets in the respective country/countries
  • The deceased has Italian assets and no will

If the deceased only had a will in their home country it is usually necessary to apply for the Grant of Probate (or equivalent) in that country first. Once the Grant of Probate from the deceased’s home country is obtained and the relevant inheritance taxes are settled (if there are any owed) you can then deal with the assets in Italy.

It is common for people who own Italian assets to make a separate Italian will, in order to make it easier for their executors and beneficiaries to deal with the inheritance of the Italian estate and other worldwide assets. If this is the case, the Italian will ordinarily cover just the Italian assets, which means that the probate process can be dealt with simultaneously in each country.

It also simplifies the process when an Italian lawyer is dealing with Italian assets and a UK lawyer, for instance, is handling the UK assets as it leaves less room for conflict between different national laws. If there is any ambiguity or conflict between the beneficiaries, you should seek specialist advice.

Once it has been ascertained which will applies to the succession of the Italian estate, your Italian lawyer can then deal with the Italian estate accordingly as per the Italian will and other will(s). In order to act on behalf of the heirs to the estate, your lawyer in Italy will usually require all the beneficiaries to sign a power of attorney – a document that can be signed before a notary – giving them the authority them to act on their behalf.

Which laws will apply to the succession of the Italian estate?

The default position in Italy is that the applicable law will be the law of the country where the deceased was ‘habitually resident’ i.e. had their main home. This position can be altered if the deceased made an election in their will that the laws of their country of their nationality should apply instead.

Italian inheritance law is subject to forced heirship which means that, if Italian law is the applicable law, certain family members are entitled to inherit particular portions of the deceased’s estate – regardless of what their will says!

If the deceased dies intestate (without leaving a will) the Grant of Letters of Administration (or equivalent) will be required and the Italian succession will be dealt with in accordance with the intestacy rules of the country where the deceased was habitually resident.

Gather all relevant documentation 

The following documentation may be required to obtain the Statement of Succession or Dichiarazione di Successione, depending on your personal circumstances:

  • Title deeds of any properties (buildings and land) owned by the deceased
  • Family certificate (or equivalent)
  • Affidavit of foreign law (this may be required to prove the validity of the will)

As part of the probate process of you will also need to provide a detailed list of the all of the assets the deceased owned – including other properties, bank accounts, shares, pensions etc. – and their values, including the Italian estate and any other assets owned in other countries.

Submit the Dichiarazione di Successione 

The final step in the inheritance process in Italy, in order for the Italian assets to be released to the beneficiaries is to obtain Italian Grant of Probate, the Dichiarazione di Successione. The Dichiarazione di Successione is a form, which can be obtained from the Italian Ministry of Finance.

This Statement of Succession must be completed and submitted to the appropriate Italian Tax authority (Agenzia delle Entrate) listing all of the deceased’s worldwide assets, within one year of the date of death, regardless of whether any inheritance tax is owed.

Once any inheritance taxes owed have been settled the Italian assets can then be released to the beneficiaries.

Accepting or renouncing inheritance in Italy

Under Italian inheritance law, the beneficiaries step into the place of the deceased, which means not only are they entitled to their share of the Italian assets but they are also liable for any debts. Therefore, if the debts exceed the value of the assets, the heirs may choose to waive their inheritance. If a beneficiary chooses to disclaim their Italian inheritance, they must officially renounce their claim in front of a Notary Public.

The Italian inheritance and succession system is notoriously complex, so if you’re dealing with the inheritance of Italian assets is strongly advisable that you seek specialist legal advice, especially if it is a cross-border estate. Contact Worldwide Lawyers for FREE no obligation advice or contact details for a recommended Italian lawyer on 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk.

German inheritance

Obtaining probate in Germany

The equivalent of a Grant of Probate in Germany is called a Certificate of Inheritance (Erbschein) or Certificate of Executorship (Testaments-vollstreckerzeugnis), both of which are issued by the German probate court (Nachlassgericht).  It is necessary to have either a Certificate of Inheritance or a Certificate of Executorship in order to access the assets of an estate located in Germany.

In Germany the principle of ‘universal succession’ applies, meaning that upon the death of a person their heirs automatically become the owners of both the deceased’s assets and debts. However, the beneficiaries must prove their entitlement by a Certificate of Inheritance. Ordinarily, there is no such thing as an executor or trustee of an estate in Germany, unless the testator has stated in their will that their estate should be administered by an executor (this is usually in the case where the deceased has a foreign will i.e. not a German will). In this instance, a Certificate of Executorship is necessary.

Certificate of Inheritance

In order for the court to issue a Certificate of Inheritance at least one of the heirs must apply for the certificate by giving an affidavit/declaration in lieu of oath. This application can be filed with the Nachlassgericht directly, providing there are heirs in Germany, using a German notary public (Notar) or via the German Missions abroad. Ordinarily one applicant applies on behalf of all the beneficiaries. A power of attorney is not required for them to apply on behalf of the other heirs.

Along with the application the claimant must also file the following supporting documents:

  • Original or court certified copy of the will
  • Original or court certified copy of the grant of probate
  • Original or notarised copy of death certificate
  • Original or notarised copy of the passport of deceased and the applicant

In the case of intestacy, certificates proving the family relationship (e.g. marriage certificate, birth certificate, divorce judgement) are required.

Some courts may demand that the documents are court certified or substantiated by a Hague Apostille Certificate. In addition, if the judge is not fluent in the language used in the supporting documents, they may request that the documents are translated and verified.

Which court is applied to depends on the last residence of the deceased. If the deceased was not resident in Germany, it is determined by the location of assets of the estate or the applicant can file for the certificate with the probate court in Berlin-Schöneberg.

Certificate of Executorship

In the case where a will names an executor, a Certificate of Executorship (Testaments-vollstreckerzeugnis), must be obtained. A Certificate of Executorship identifies the legitimate executor and gives them the right to administer the estate and dispose of/distributed assets in accordance with any limitations outlined in the certificate.

If the German estate includes property, a German Certificate of Inheritance is still required, in order for the executor to transfer the property in the name of the heir(s).

Renouncing a German inheritance

As debts as well as assets are inherited by the heirs of an estate in Germany, German law allows beneficiaries to waive their rights to an inheritance. In order to disclaim an inheritance in Germany, the beneficiary must submit a Declaration of Renouncement of Succession to the Nachlassgericht within six weeks of being informed of the inheritance. If the beneficiary is not resident in Germany, they have six months to submit the declaration.

Find out more about renouncing an overseas inheritance here: Waiving a foreign inheritance.

If you’re unable to make the declaration of renouncement in person in Germany, it is possible to submit the form with a certification of your signature. It is recommended that you also you enclose copies of all documents proving the right to inherit (i.e. last will, letters testamentary, death certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.)

Inheritance Tax in Germany

The beneficiaries must file a notice of inheritance with the relevant German Tax authority within 3 months.

In Germany, inheritance tax is paid separately by each beneficiary. The amount of German inheritance tax payable differs depending on the value of the inheritance received by the beneficiary and their relationship to the deceased. The tax rates are between 7 per cent and 50 per cent.

If neither the deceased nor the beneficiary are tax resident in Germany, German inheritance tax will only be due in respect of immoveable property located in Germany (ie houses, apartments etc). No German inheritance tax will be payable by a beneficiary in relation to a bank account, for example, where neither the deceased or beneficiary were tax resident in Germany.

Where the beneficiary is tax resident, there are tax free allowances available if they are a spouse or descendent of the deceased. The value of these allowances vary depending on the beneficiaries relationship to the deceased and the age of the beneficiary.

Legal costs

German lawyers’ fees are in accordance with a set statutory scale of fees in respect of representation in court proceedings. The fees are dependant on the value of the assets in Germany, therefore the higher the value of the assets, the higher the fees. There is a minimum fee but not maximum fee. Contact us today for a quote on 01244 470339.

If you require assistance with a German inheritance matter, please contact us on 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk and our friendly team will be happy to help. 

 

NZ and Australia signposts

Inheriting Australian and New Zealand shares

If you are dealing with the inheritance of shares held in Australian or New Zealand companies – such as shares in Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Brambles or ANZ Bank for instance – you will need to follow the relevant process so that the inherited shares can be transferred or sold.

If the shares are in an Australian company, you will need to understand the requirements of the share registrar in Australia, whether it be Link Market Services, Computershare or another registrar.

The process required will depend on the value of the shares. The Australian share registrar will have a certain value limit, above which they will require you to apply for an Australian Grant of Probate or (if a Grant of probate has been issued in another country such as in the UK) reseal a grant of probate in Australia. Therefore you will need to instruct a lawyer in Australia to assist you with this.

The situation is similar in New Zealand. The registrars for the New Zealand company that the shares are held in will require a Grant of Probate in New Zealand or a resealed grant of probate in New Zealand before they will take instructions to sell or transfer the shares the executors or beneficiaries, if the value of the shares is above a certain amount. A lawyer in New Zealand should be instructed to handle the process. The most common shareholdings in New Zealand are dealt with by share registrars Link Market Services and Computershare but the situation is similar for other registrars too.

The process of resealing in Australia or New Zealand is only available where the original grant of probate was issued in a country where the Queen of the United Kingdom is the head of state. These are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, United Kingdom.

Where the process of ‘resealing’ is not available, a full application for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration be required in Australia or New Zealand (wherever the shares are located). Worldwide Lawyers regularly assist beneficiaries of executors who are dealing with the shares in the name of a deceased person in Australia and New Zealand.

Contact worldwide lawyers on 01244 470339 or info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk for more information about dealing with the inheritance of shares in Australia or New Zealand. Worldwide Lawyers can assist with resealing a Grant of Probate from any of the above countries as well as assisting where a reseal is not available.

Often, when dealing with the inheritance of Australian and New Zealand shares it will not immediately be apparent to you or the share registrar that a reseal is required or available, and you may therefore be asked by the share registrar in to fill in documentation. It is advisable to seek legal advice before filling in any paperwork requested by the share registrar or bank as this can cause unnecessary complications further down the line in some circumstances. Your lawyer in Australia or New Zealand will also be able to offer you guidance and assistance relating to any capital gains tax owed.

If the plan is for the shares to be sold, consideration should be given to whether any currency exchange will be required and the effect that this will have on the amounts received by the beneficiaries. If Australian shares are sold, the sale proceeds will be in Australian dollars. If New Zealand shares are sold the sale proceeds will be in New Zealand dollars. If those sale proceeds will need to be transferred to someone in another country, in another currency, careful consideration should be given to how you will deal with the currency exchange. Failure to do so can deplete the proceeds of the sale considerable and unnecessarily.

Worldwide Lawyers always recommends to anyone who will be receiving or transferring funds between currencies that they speak with a currency specialist as early as possible. A good currency specialist will be able to assist you with ensuring that you get the best currency rate when repatriating funds received after selling Australian shares or New Zealand shares. For more information about how currency exchange companies can save you up to five per cent of the amount transferred, compared to using a high street bank, read our article: When should you consider using a currency exchange specialist?

Worldwide Lawyers will be happy to recommend a suitable currency specialist who can assist you with getting the best exchange rate when repatriating the proceeds from the sale of shares in Australia or New Zealand. The services of the currency specialist are free.
In Australia and New Zealand, most shares are bought and sold through the global share registry Link Market Services. If you choose the sell your shares, it’s important that you keep copies of your acquisition and disposal statements (i.e. the ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ contracts) and your dividend statements.

If you need advice on inheriting shares from Australia or New Zealand, contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk. Our friendly and knowledgeable team will be able to put you in touch with a lawyer in Australia and New Zealand who have experience in the inheritance of Australian and New Zealand shares.

InheritingSpanishProperty

Inheriting a Spanish property

This article is based on the assumption that the deceased was a UK national however, we can also assist the beneficiaries of Spanish property from all over the world. If you need help in dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property or other assets in Spain, contact us on (+44) 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk    

If you are dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property, one of the first things you will need to do is ascertain whether the person who died owning the Spanish property had a valid will.

It could be that:

  • The deceased has a Spanish property and there is only an English will
  • The deceased has a Spanish property and there is only a Spanish will
  • The deceased has a Spanish property and there is a Spanish will and an English will
  • The deceased has a Spanish property and no will
  • The deceased has a Spanish property and a will from a country outside of the UK and Spain (this is beyond the scope of this article but certainly something we can assist with contact us on (+44) 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk for assistance).

In each case the process of how to deal with the inheritance of a Spanish property is different. We have set out below some information based on each scenario.

You are inheriting a Spanish property and there is only an English will

f the deceased was English but owned property in Spain, you may find that the deceased just had an English will. In this event, it’s necessary to first obtain a Grant of Probate in England.

As part of the application for the Grant of Probate in England you’ll need to provide a list of the all of the assets the deceased owned and their values (this includes the Spanish property and any other assets owned in England or in any other country). Once the Grant of Probate is obtained and the UK inheritances taxes are settled (if there are any due to be paid) it’s then possible to deal with the Spanish assets.

Your Spanish lawyer will require an original death certificate and original Grant of Probate, both of which must be stamped with the Apostile of The Hague at the Foreign & Commonwealth office. These documents must be translated into Spanish, which your lawyer in Spain will usually be able to arrange. In order to act on behalf of the beneficiaries in Spain, your lawyer in Spain will usually require all the heirs/ beneficiaries to sign a power of attorney authorising them to act for you. A power of attorney is a document that can be signed before a notary in either Spain or the UK.

Your Spanish lawyer will deal with the probate process in Spain from there.

There is Spanish property and there is only a Spanish will 

You will need to provide your Spanish lawyer with a copy of the death certificate so that a search for a Spanish will can be carried out.

Your lawyer in Spain will then visit the Spanish equivalent of the Births, Deaths & Marriage Registry to obtain a certificado de ultimas voluntades (also known as a certificate of last wishes). This is to ascertain whether or not the deceased had a valid Spanish will and, if so, where the will is located so that a copy of the Spanish will can be obtained.

To obtain a copy of a Spanish will, the beneficiaries will need to appoint their Spanish lawyer as power of attorney or at least one of the heirs will need to visit the Spanish Notary in person with their passport.

Once the death certificate, certificate of last wishes and authentic copy of the Spanish will have been provided the next step is to obtain a list of all the Spanish assets with their values.

With regards to Spanish property you will need to provide a copy of the deeds of the Spanish property also known as the Escritura de Compraventa and a receipt of the Town Hall rates known as the IBI (Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles), so that the taxable value of the property can be established. Once the valuation of the estate (there may be other assets included such as a bank account, car etc.) has been confirmed, your Spanish lawyer will calculate the Spanish inheritance tax owed.

You lawyer in Spain will then arrange an appointment with the local Spanish Notary to sign the deed of acceptance of the inheritance, which is a document that outlines: the date of death of the deceased; all the Spanish assets; and the beneficiaries of the assets.

If you have given power of attorney to your Spanish lawyer, they will be able to sign the deed on your behalf. If not, then you will need to visit to Spain to sign the deed at the local Notary office. Once the deed has been signed your lawyer will arrange payment of the notary fees and then pay the Spanish inheritance taxes. Inheritance taxes in Spain can be settled using money held in the deceased’s Spanish bank account (if there is one, and the funds are sufficient), which your lawyer in Spain can arrange with the bank. If there are not sufficient funds these taxes must be paid by the beneficiaries.

Once any Spanish inheritance tax owed has been paid and the tax form stamped your Spanish lawyer can arrange either the transfer of the property into names of the beneficiaries or the sale of the property. In order for the property to be transferred into your name and for your lawyer to pay to pay the inheritance tax in Spain on your behalf you will require an NIE number, which your Spanish lawyer can help you obtain.

There is a Spanish property and both a Spanish will and an English will 

It is usual for people who own a Spanish property to make a separate Spanish will to make it easier for their executors and beneficiaries to deal with the inheritance of the Spanish property and other assets.

Therefore, if there is both a Spanish will and an English will, it will usually be the Spanish will that is relevant to deal with the Spanish estate. Consideration should, however, be given to the wording of each of the wills to ensure that only one will covers the Spanish property. Ideally the English will should state that it is limited to assets other than those located in Spain so that it is clear that the relevant will to deal with the property in Spain is the Spanish will. Likewise, it should be clear that the Spanish will only covers the Spanish assets (if that was the intention). Otherwise it could be that one will has the effect of revoking the other so that there remains only one valid will.

If there in any ambiguity or conflict between the beneficiaries, specialist advice should be sought.

Once it has been ascertained which will applies to the succession of the Spanish property, your Spanish lawyer can then deal with the estate accordingly as per the Spanish or English will as set out above.

There is a Spanish property and no will

If the deceased owner of the Spanish property did not leave a will, and was a UK national then a Grant of Letters of Administration will need to be obtained in the UK. The inheritance of the Spanish property can then be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the country where the deceased was habitually resident.

Spanish inheritance tax on inheritance of property in Spain

It will need to be ascertained where the deceased was domiciled, where they were registered for tax purposes and where they spent most of the year. Once this information is confirmed it can be determined which inheritance taxes will be owed.

It may be possible that inheritance taxes are owed in both the UK and Spain. There is, however, a double tax treaty between Spain and the UK so inheritance tax on the same assets is not paid twice.

In some circumstances beneficiaries may have to ‘top up’ the inheritance tax payable in Spain as Spain’s inheritance tax laws, the inheritance tax rates and tax allowances differ from region to region.

Dealing with the inheritance of Spanish property can be complicated and in order to ensure matters are dealt with properly it is important to seek proper advice from lawyers who are used to dealing with cross border estates.

If you’re dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property (or other Spanish assets) and you’re not sure whether you need a Spanish lawyer, an English lawyer, both or neither contact Worldwide Lawyers for FREE no obligation advice on 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk  

 

News-5-Will

Waiving a foreign inheritance

If you are the beneficiary or heir of an estate with assets abroad, it may be that you do not want to receive the inheritance and would like to waive or refuse your right to receive the foreign inheritance.

There are a number of reasons why a beneficiary may want to reject their inheritance, such as:

  • Accepting an inheritance may mean that you inherit not only the assets but also the debts too. This is the case in countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany and many others too. So, in circumstances where the value of the debt outweighs the value of the assets, it can be advisable to waive your inheritance.
  • Inheriting an estate may create an additional inheritance tax liability for you or your own estate and you may feel that renouncing the inheritance in favour of another person (e.g your children) would be more tax efficient.
  • You just don’t need the money or feel that others are more in need and would prefer to disclaim your inheritance so that someone else benefits.

Can you disclaim a foreign inheritance?

The ability to waive a foreign inheritance and the process to be followed all depends on the national law that applies to the estate. Determining which national law applies to the estate is crucial and should be ascertained before you decide whether to accept or decline the inheritance.  The applicable law will determine the effect of the waiver and the process to be followed.

How do you disclaim a foreign inheritance?

It is usually the case that you must take steps to formally renounce the inheritance otherwise, if you do nothing, you may be deemed to have accepted the inheritance after a certain period of time.

To waive your inheritance, some form of formal written waiver or disclaimer of interest is therefore usually required. This waiver/disclaimer will usually be prepared by the lawyer/notary in the country where the estate is located. The formal waiver will usually need to be signed in front of a Notary Public in that country or in your own country or at an embassy/consulate.

There is usually a legally specified time period in which you must submit the disclaimer, which can vary from a few months up to several years depending on the country. The time period can also be different for beneficiaries who live abroad.

What should you consider before waiving a foreign inheritance? 

In some countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece, a waiver of an inheritance must be total and cannot be partial. So, if you choose to reject your inheritance you must waive your right to the entire inheritance. For example, if there are assets in one country and debts in another, you cannot accept the inheritance in one country and refuse the inheritance in another. However, in some instances and some countries, such as France, you may be able to disclaim only some aspects of the inheritance.

Disclaiming a foreign inheritance can have serious implications for your own heirs. For instance, if you wish to waive an inheritance because the estate is burdened with debt, this debt may pass on to the next in line to inherit. If they choose to waive the inheritance, their heirs may inherit the debt and so on. So, you may wish to consider the implications that waiving an inheritance would have on your own children and grandchildren.

If you disclaim an inheritance in favour of another person, in some countries, such as Spain, this would be considered to be a gift and you may therefore be liable for two lots of taxation i.e. inheritance tax on your inheritance and then gift tax on it passing to another person.

Once you have officially rejected a foreign inheritance you cannot usually change your mind. So, you should be certain that you have made the right decision before disclaiming your inheritance.

Needless to say, dealing with inheritance matters in a foreign country can be complex. So, it’s crucial that you seek legal advice before deciding to whether to disclaim a foreign inheritance.

If you need advice on how to accept or reject a foreign inheritance in Spain, France, Italy, Greece or any other country, contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk. Our friendly and knowledgeable team will be able to provide assistance and put you in touch with an English-speaking lawyer in the required country.