Inheritance, what’s new in Italian law?

Posted on 12/02/2014

prima_settimana 044Italian legal system is going through an intense season of reformation. In particular a big change has been made regarding filiation.

Italian law has always distinguished between “natural” or “illegitimate” sons, born from unmarried parents and “legitimate” sons, born from parents who are legally married to each other.
Many differences in treatment derived from this distinction both in the relationship between the son and his parents and between the son and the relatives of his parents.
First of all, the natural sons were not related to any member of the family, but to the parent, with many consequences regarding alimony and inheritance.
This meant that this “kind of sons” could not inherit from their sibling, grand-parents, uncles and aunts, who were not considered as relatives.
Moreover, when inheriting form one of their parents, they were considered outsiders from the legitimate family, therefore they could be paid off and excluded by the joint tenancy on the deceased’s goods (this faculty belonging to the “legitimate” heirs is called “commutazione”).

This discriminating treatment has now ceased, thanks to the D.Lgs. 154/2013, effective from 7 January 2014, by which children born in and outside the marriage, as well as the adopted ones, are equalized.
Italian law now does not derives any different treatment from the status of the sons anymore and now they are always considered to be part of parents’ families.
In particular, for what concerns the inheritance, there are three main consequences: one concerning the abrogation of the above mentioned institution of commutation, and the others deriving from the connection with the parents’ families.
That means that sons inherit in the same way, no matter if they have been adopted, or if they were born from unmarried parents.
Until now, for example, legitimate and illegitimate siblings could not inherit one from the other; on the contrary, the illegitimate sibling could inherit only if any other relative was missing and just before the State.
As a consequence of the reformation, now siblings are heir one to the other even if they have one different parent or are adopted.
Moreover, the institution called “rappresentazione” – which substitutes the descendants of the first heir to him, in case he can not or does not want to accept the inheritance – is now applicable to the descendants of illegitimate sons and also to the descendants of illegitimate brother.