Land ownership and Wills

Italians are very jealous about land ownership as a general rule, when family members emigrated communication was often non-existent or at least only lasted until either the immigrant or their parents died.

On death, Italian law is very specific about who inherits the land.  It should be divided equally among the children (if the wife is dead).  If the property was small and the number of children large it often meant that each inherited one or two rooms and a few square meters of land.  Often the one who ended up caring for the old folks was given the rooms that their sisters were allocated or they simply squatted in the rooms allocated to the emigrant siblings until they assumed ownership due to lack of contact with the emigrant. 

Often letters were written to emigrant siblings after the death of a parent asking for money or demanding their share of the property. The reply simply told them they weren’t coming home, and to keep the inheritance.  There isn’t much buying and selling between family members.  The cost of the legal work is high even today.  Sometimes if the property was damaged in war or earthquakes the town would simply demolish the unsafe building if it was owned by an emigrant or even expropriate the land to widen a road for example.

This is not always a rational country by North American or British standards.

I live in a house owned by and inherited by my husband.  We have no children together although I have two children from a former marriage.  Even if my husband makes a will according to the above websites he cannot disinherit his 3 siblings from inheriting one third of the house jointly.  If this is the case they could force me to compensate them financially or move in!   Sobering thought!  We might try to sell before one of us dies, but the chance of selling a property in Italy is not that great. Anything that does sell is often way undervalued.


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