Here I am again after a recent trip to the UK. I am pretty sure the whole affair of travelling internationally with a family during Covid restrictions has taken 10 years off my life. What a nightmare! The evening before we flew to the UK I spent 5 hours in front of the computer trying to work out which forms were needed, for when, and which Covid tests would be required, and when. We also had to spend approx £150 on Covid tests to travel. I have spoken to many people who have had a similar experience. The whole process was not aided by the fact that we were diverted through Barcelona because the direct flight to London had been cancelled, and even transitioning means that the necessary Covid protocols must be adhered to in the transiting country as well. Despite the administrative and logistical headache of planning all this pre-journey, the actual trip itself went well.
Do I need a different Will as an expat living in Italy?
By Gareth Horsfall
This article is published on: 24th November 2021
So, after surviving that experience and deciding not to travel outside Italian borders again until it starts to eventually settle down, I got called to another meeting in Barcelona in December. I will have to go through it all over again!
Anyway, after all that I thought I would write about something which is ordinarily outside my field of expertise in this Ezine: making a will. I haven’t touched on this subject for some time, but recently we have teamed up with another International lawyer called Jessica Zama of Buckles solicitors. She is British/Italian and is well versed in the world of whether to make a will in Italy or not, and not just for Brits. I asked her to write a piece that I could share with you about the importance of making a will in Italy when you have assets in the country, i.e. a property in most cases, which I have copied below.
However, before I get into that I wanted to write about a couple of other things which may come in useful if you need to travel, post-Brexit banking arrangements in the UK and a new Italian website that might come in handy.
I myself used to have travel insurance through a UK firm, pre Covid, pre-Brexit. This firm no longer offers insurance to EU resident individuals due to Brexit so before my trip to the UK I needed to shop around to find a cost effective option. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to find a solution that wasn’t going to cost the earth. The usual Italian market suspects (Generali, Allianz, Zurich, Unipol) etc were rather more than I wanted to pay. However, on doing some research I stumbled into my favourite comparison website: facile.it It was there that I discovered that they were offering travel insurance packages from a French firm ‘InterMutuelles Assistance’.
One of my colleagues in France informed me that MAIF, MACIF and MATMUT are big French insurers and this firm is a part of the group, so likely to be a solid firm.
The French company is merely using its European license to passport its services into other EU states, in much the way that the UK firm I used to buy travel insurance from used to do. So, I wanted to communicate that there are lower cost more competitive options in the market place. This is by no means the only option and I would urge you to do your own research if you require travel insurance, but if you are interested you can find them under their brand in Italy:
UK banking arrangements
A lot of my clients who are UK account holders with Natwest have now received a letter informing them that likely action to close their account will take place before the end of 2021, as a result of Brexit, and the fact that Italy has been very clear (as early as April 2020. See document HERE) that they do not want non-Italian, non-EU financial firms, advisories, or intermediaries operating on Italian soil or for Italian resident individuals. Italy, along with the Netherlands, seem to have the most strict measures in place, and it would appear that in both cases accounts of clients of Natwest are now being shut down, if they haven’t done so already.
This obviously leads to the question, what can you do for continuation of banking services in GBP? Thankfully in the last few years with the development of the Fintech industry, a myriad of options have arisen. The most popular seems to be Wise (formerly Transferwise) who are offering not just currency exchange services, but different currency accounts through which you can move money. Wise are not a bank, so you may be restricted on exactly what you can do and who can send money to that account, but it does work for some. I myself use Fineco bank in Italy and they provide current account holders with EUR, GBP and USD accounts, to which money can be sent, and then moving money between one and the other does not attract any currency conversion costs. There are also a number of online banks and services offering these options and so you shouldn’t be short of options.
The only problem
There is however one area which may still cause an issue if your UK account is closed down. UK direct debits. I myself have not been contacted yet to close my First Direct account in the UK, but should it happen it would cause a very big problem as I have a number of insurances which I took out years ago in the UK that provide protection for me and my family. However, they only accept payment through direct debit on a UK account. Should my banking services be pulled I may find myself losing my insurance. You may find yourself in a similar situation with UK direct debits. In this situation, there really is not a lot you can do about it, I am afraid.
But moving on from banking arrangements, I want to now lead into the idea of making a will in Italy. It still surprises me how many people have not done so yet. I understand it is one of those ‘to do’ list items, but the truth of the matter is that it shouldn’t be. It should be a priority item. To die, leaving an asset such as a property in Italy, without clear instructions as to how you want this asset to be treated, could create all sorts of complications for your family and/or beneficiaries. I made my will a few years ago now and whilst it probably needs updating again, I know that I have a valid Italian will in place in the event of my death.
So without further ado I am passing to the words of Jessica Zama, who wrote the following piece, and which I hope spurs you into making your own will if you have not already done so.
A very useful Italian website
From the 15th November a new Italian government website has been launched called ‘Anagrafe Nazionale Popolazione Residente’ https://www.anagrafenazionale.interno.it/servizi-al-cittadino/ (ANPR for short). It allows every Italian resident the ability to download all those certificates which traditionally you had to take an appointment at the comune, to attain. As anyone who has lived in Italy long enough, at some point or another you will need one of the certificates, mentioned below, and since they only have a 6 monthly validity the fact that you can now easily download them online is fantastic. Other services do exist, which I have used myself to avoid queuing at the comune offices, but they do charge a pretty penny for the service. For the moment they are also free of charge through this website, and it is expected that this will be the case until the end of 2022, at which point you may be expected to pay just the ‘bollo’ at the point of download. The certificates include:
- Anagrafico di nascita;
- Anagrafico di matrimonio;
- di Cittadinanza;
- di Esistenza in vita;
- di Residenza;
- di Stato civile;
- di Stato di famiglia;
- di Stato di famiglia e di stato civile;
- di Residenza in convivenza;
- di Stato di famiglia con rapporti di parentela;
- di Stato libero;
- Anagrafico di Unione Civile;
- di Contratto di Convivenza.
To enter in the website you will need a SPID or Carta d’Identità Elettronica.
If you hold assets located in Italy, it’s important to obtain legal advice to draw up a will that covers them, regardless of whether or not you live there.
There are several reasons for doing this. If you have any specific wishes relating to the distribution of your Italian assets following your death then you need to put them in writing, in a will that is considered legally valid in Italy. If you do not have a valid will in place, your Italian estate will pass to the beneficiaries set by Italian law (in most cases the spouse and children).
The validity of your will in Italy is crucial, particularly if it is drafted and/or signed abroad and is to cover all your Italian assets, both present and future. For example, if you were to specify in your Italian will that you wish to leave a specific property in Italy to your wife, but this is then sold during your lifetime, your Italian will would not cover the proceeds of sale held in an Italian bank account.
Your will must also take into consideration the Italian inheritance laws and succession procedures. In Italy certain relatives, such as the spouse and children, have a right to a percentage of the deceased’s estate regardless of the terms of the will. This is known as forced heirship and it must be taken into consideration when drafting a will relating to Italian assets, as it can somewhat limit your testamentary freedom.
However, there may be the possibility to avoid this restriction by electing for the law of your country of nationality to apply to the will and the succession (thereby allowing for more freedom in disposing of your assets) although you would need legal advice on whether this can be applied in your case and how to draft your will so that the Italian forced heirship rules are avoided.
It is also important to consider the wording of the will and the legal terminology used within. A will signed in another country may potentially cover all your worldwide assets, including your Italian assets, but its wording may cause issues regarding the administration of your Italian estate in the future. Therefore, once again it’s important to obtain legal advice on this subject.
When you also have a separate will which covers your assets in another country (even if this will excludes Italian assets), it’s important that your lawyer checks to ensure that there are no conflicts between the two wills which could render one or both invalid and thereby potentially leave your assets exposed in both countries.