Italian succession law and “quote di riserva”, do I have to take them into account in my Italian will?


Our association’s aim is to inform and assist the new comers from Italy and this blog meant to be a supporting tool for our purpose. However, we also used to give space at several contributions that we consider useful for the italian community in its entirety. Accordingly, we have accepted the offer of Francesca Catherine Dimunno, an Italian English speaking lawyer at the Rome based law firm Consulia, who regularly deals with cross border legal issues for foreign clients in Italy. Francesca has sent us some articles about legal problems that in her professional experience might concern Italians abroad when they find themselves dealing with the Italian legal system. The articles will be published in English to make it easier for non-Italian native speakers.


In daily practice, when carrying out consultancy in the area of successions in Italy, as also when assisting clients in the delicate planning of patrimonial disposal and drawing up a will that is valid in Italy, I am quite commonly asked about whether the land registry data should also be specified to identify the real estate that the client intends to leave to her/his heirs in a holographic will, i.e. a handwritten will. Italian succession law analyses inheritance aspects in great detail. In Italy, in fact, the testator is not completely free to decide who to leave his assets to, but must comply with the regulations assigning set quotas or proportions of his assets to specific kin. 

The reserve quota is that part of the total assets that the testator cannot leave as s/he likes, because it is legally owed to the ‘reserve’ or ‘legitimate’ heirs which are the testator’s kin, namely the spouse, legitimate, natural or adopted children and parents. The quotas will depend on the number of legitimate heirs, and this aspect, too, is addressed in detail in Italian Law. For example, in the case of the spouse and just one child, the legitimate quota is  1/3 each and the remaining 1/3 is the free quota, that can be left as the testator wishes.   In fact, what is left after subtracting the legitimate quotas is the free quota that the testator can leave as desired, completely independently, and the heirs cannot dispute such stipulations in the will. In the light of this, as regards the content, the testator is free to decide what to leave and to whom, provided s/he complies with the lawfully due reserve quotas to the heir entitled and details the available patrimony. In fact, for the will to be valid in Italy, it is necessary to specify as precisely as possible what property one intendeds to leave to the heirs, as regards real estate, and to prevent doubts arising it may also be best to indicate the land registry data. If one is not aware of the property’s land registry data and one has no means of obtaining such information, it is important  to make sure that the property/properties listed in one’s will is identifiable, without any risk of confusion.

Francesca Dimunno