Accepting or renouncing succession is one of the most discussed topics of the Italian law. Any heir is always in the position to renounce his/her rights to inherit, but will acquire the qualification of heir as soon as he/she accepts the succession. Once accepted, the qualification of heir is irrevocable.
The acceptance can be express or tacit. In either case, acceptance should be manifested within 10 years from the opening of the succession process. The express acceptance of inheritance takes place when the heir declares his/her willingness to accept the status of heir, by means of a notarial or a private deed. Tacit acceptance takes place when someone acts in such a way that his/her acceptance to inherit assets can be implied.
The acceptance can also be made under benefit of inventory. In this way, the successor reserves the right to accept or renounce an inheritance by taking into account whether or not debts on the assets exceed the value of the property. In this way, the heir is in the position to discharge him/herself from paying the debts by renouncing an inheritance in favour of creditors and legatees.
Generally speaking, successors decide to renounce a succession in cases where the deceased’s debts exceed the value of the assets to be inherited. The heirs are required to pay the deceased’s debts up to the value of the property they inherit. In case of refusal, the successor needs to give public notice of refusal in front of a Notary Public or a public officer, since the act of renouncing an inheritance cannot be made in a private document. The renouncement is revocable to the extent that the successor appointed upon the renouncement has not yet accepted the inheritance.
It is always advisable to consult a competent independent professional who will be in the position to provide useful information about debts and charges on the inherited assets and the duties of the heir. An experienced legal professional will provide advice based on a comprehensive inventory of the assets in question, so that an heir can make an informed decision on how to proceed.
A Guide to Italian Inheritance law: All the information you need to Italian Succession