Using the inheritance wild card
(Legal concept - Italian wills / Testamento italiano)
What possible association can one make between an Italian will and a deck of cards which includes a wild card known as the Joker? With a little imagination, there is only one association. I am not a poker player but I do know that if I am dealt a Joker I am free to use it as I want.
So what does the Joker have to do with the writing an Italian will? Stated quickly it is that percentage of one’s assets in Italy that one may dispose of freely. In Italian legalese it is called, La disponibile
For those who read February’s article entitled Will & Testament- Italian Style, you may recall that one may not dispose of one’s assets in Italy with total freedom of choice when the immediate family survives you. In Italian this is called i legittimari
Summarizing last month’s article, suppose your last will and testament, written in the U.S., expresses the following: to my oldest son living in New York, I leave the house in Naples and the Alfa Romeo; to my wife, I leave the summer home in Sicily along with its 50 acres of olive groves; and to my daughter, who never visited me except when she wanted money, I leave my butterfly collection.
According to Italian law, there are minimum percentages that must go to the immediate family, and unless the daughter, in this example, agrees to accept less, then the minimums must be adhered to. In the above example this means: 25% to the surviving spouse, 25% to the two children. The remaining 25% may be freely willed to whomever one chooses.
In a certain sense, La disponibile functions like the joker, allowing the testator writing the will to allot the remaining 25% freely. As an example, one may add an additional 5% to the inheritance of each immediate family members. The remaining 10% may go to a friend and to charity of your choice. You may even just decide to give the remaining 25% for the preservation of Sicilian butterflies.
The fundamental two points are: when writing a will remember to always honor the minimum percentages as expressed in Italian law and use the joker card wisely. For an easy to understand diagram of the correct distribution of Italian assets go here
For further clarification, Italian Legal Language Services can be reached in San Francisco at (415) 382-6171 or through their web site www.italianlaw.net