Last updated on 27 March 2020 by the Italian Ministry of Justice
What actions are available if one considers to have been wronged in relation to his inheritance rights?
There are different types of legal actions that an heir can exercise when he believes that his inheritance rights have been infringed. The Court with jurisdiction is always that for the place where the succession is opened, i.e. the Court of the place of the deceased's last residence.
The various actions can normally be exercised together as part of a single case (e.g. in the same case one can contest the will because it is false, apply in the alternative for the provisions harmful to one's rights as forced heir to be reduced, and request for division of the estate). Before starting the proceedings it is also necessary to attempt a mediation with a conciliation body recognised by the Ministry of Justice.
Action claiming the rights of an heir
It is governed by Article 533 of the Italian Civil Code and is the action by which the heir can claim his rights as such and apply for the restitution of the assets in the estate from the person possessing them. It can be brought either against other heirs or against the person possessing the assets without title.
It can be exercised without any time limit (it is not subject to a time-limit), but it is limited by an eventual acquisition of title by prescription.
Action contesting the testament
This is the action whereby various reasons for invalidating the testament can be pleaded: the falsity of the will (when it was not written by the deceased), defects of form (e.g. the lack of the date or signature in the holographic will), the testator's incapacity (e.g. because not of age, because disabled, because non compos mentis when the testament was drawn up), not freely consented (when, for instance, the testament is the result of deception or violence).
Normally, the right to plead the testament's invalidity is time-barred after five years from the opening of the succession or from the time when the testament's provisions are performed (when the testament is published by the notary); in more serious cases of nullity for illegality (e.g. when the will is the product of a succession pact) or serious formal defects (e.g. lack of date or signature in holographic will) there are no time limits.
Action in abatement
This is the action brought by a party who considers his rights to his reserved share have been infringed. The deceased's closest relatives - children, spouse or civil union partner, parents, other ascendants or descendants if they exist - are termed forced heirs and are entitled a reserved share in the deceased's estate fixed by statute.
By means of the action in abatement they can obtain the proportional reduction of the dispositions of the will that infringe their rights - and even of the deceased's gifts inter vivos - until they recover their share reserved by law.
The action must be brought within ten years of the opening of the succession.
Estate division action
This is the action whereby each co-heir can apply for the division of the estate.
The right to apply for the division of the assets in coparceny is not subject to a time-limit.