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Test your knowledge of Italy.
Using the Inheritance Wild Card
What possible association can one make between an Italian will and a deck of American cards which include a wild card known as the Joker? With a little imagination, there is only one association. I am not a poker player but I do know that if I am dealt a Joker I am free to use it as I want.
So what does this wild card have to do with the writing of an Italian will? It relates to the percentage of one's assets in Italy that one may dispose of freely. In Italian legalese it is called, La disponibile.
For those of you who read my last article entitled Is your last will, the way?, you may recall that one may not dispose of one's assets in Italy with total freedom of choice when the immediate family survives you. In Italian this is called i legittimari.
Summarizing my last article, suppose your last will and testament, written in the U.S., expresses the following: to my oldest son living in New York, I leave the house in Naples and the Alfa Romeo; to my wife, I leave the summer home in Sicily along with its 50 acres of olive groves; and to my daughter, who never visited me except when she wanted money, I leave my butterfly collection.
According to Italian law, there are minimum percentages that must go to the immediate family and unless the daughter, in this example, agrees to accept less, then the minimums must be adhered to. In the above example this means: 25% to the surviving spouse, 25% to the two children (50% split by the number of descendants), and the remaining 25% could be freely willed to whomever one chooses.
In this sense, La disponibile functions like the joker, allowing the testator writing the will to allot the remaining 25% freely. For example, one may add an additional 5% to the inheritance of each immediate family member. The remaining 10% may go to a friend or to a charity of your choice. You may even just decide to give the remaining 25% to the preservation of Sicilian butterflies!
The fundamental two points are: when writing a will remember to always honor the minimum percentages as expressed in Italian law and use the joker card wisely. For an easy to understand diagram of the correct distribution of Italian assets, read our previous article Claim your Italian Inheritance.
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