Italian inheritances - q & a
(FAQ - Frequently Asked Question)
For the last several months, I have presented certain basic information on inheriting Italian property. The fundamentals served not only to inform the reader on the “rules” of Italian succession law, but also as a wake up call to those who may still have the right to inherit. Here are a few of the questions we have received .
Q. My grandparents came to the US in 1906 and left behind my grandmothers parents and one older, married sister. The parents died and are buried in the village, as is the sister and her husband. The sister had several children, all of whom died in infancy, plus she had an adopted son who emigrated to the US. How would I determine if any property was inherited by my grandmother? We know the exact location of the house in which she lived. Mrs. D.
A. Hello Ms. D. In order to understand the historical data and subsequent transfer of title to others of any Italian property, the source of information you are looking for is found at the office called, La conservatoria. All provinces of Italy have one. If you have the address then you could also discover the name of the present owners of the property as well.
Q. I am the oldest of all the nieces, nephews and grand children. My uncle was born and lives in Italy. He doesn't have any children of his own but is married. So my question is: who is the one to inherit his house? Lucia
A. Hello Lucia. Your question is simple but has a complicated answer since there are several scenarios that could play out.
First of all let's exclude some of those recurring stereotypes such as oldest child, the son, etc. that we keep hearing from the Italian American community. They are not pertinent elements in the distribution of the assets.
If your uncle passes on [u]without[/u] a will, 2/3 interest will automatically go to his spouse and 1/3 will be split between parents, brothers and sisters and/or the nephews and nieces of their deceased parents. This latter point in legal terms is called Representation.
If he passes on [u]with a will[/u] a surviving spouse ([i]la legittimaria[/i]) will have a right to 50% and the remaining can be distributed freely. If there are surviving parents, they will receive 25%.
Q. Please give me information on taking title to property if it has been worked on for over 30 years. When my grandfather left Italy 35 years ago, he left some ( olive and lemon groves ) to his cousin to tend to so that the trees wouldn't die. My grandfather died this year, and when we inquired about this property we were told he took title to it 5 years ago, because he worked the property for 30 years.
A. Hello Mr. R
Yes, it is possible to lose agricultural property after 30 years if someone pays the taxes for all of those years.
Aside from the statue of limitations that may be 30 years in this case, there must be also the element of "good faith". In other words, if you are the succession heir and the petitioner trying to acquire it by adverse possession is aware of your existence, the statue of limitations may not apply.
Do you know who has paid the taxes all these years?
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