International Wills

Luigi Curati was born in Italy in 1927 of Italian parents; they moved to Carponeto where he met his future wife, Carmen. His parents ran a restaurant and hotel in Carponeto where Luigi worked.

Luigi moved to London and worked as a cook for Carmen’s parents; after Luigi married his in-laws transferred the restaurant to the two of them.

Luigi and Carmen lived in England and had no children of their own.

In the late 1970s Luigi and his wife sold the restaurant and invested in rental properties. When Luigi’s father died he inherited and leased his parent’s home in Italy. Luigi and his wife built a similar Italian investment property portfolio to the one they had in England and bought holiday homes for their own use.

Luigi and Carmen made English Mirror Wills on similar terms, leaving the whole of the estate to Carmen if she survived him by one month; in the event she did not so survive, then Barclays Bank Trust Company Limited was appointed as executor and his estate was left to his niece & nephew Sylvana and Roberto .

The 1994 Italian Wills were also mirror Wills, Luigi appointed his wife as his sole heir – meaning his wife would inherit all his property, wherever it was located.

Luigi’s wife died in July 2007 after suffering from intestinal cancer for 15 years. Luigi suffered a stroke in 2000 and was unable to manage his properties so he employed his nephew Mr Bocelli to manage the Italian property portfolio full time. Luigi could not find a family member willing to manage the English portfolio he sold their investment properties in England in 2002/3 retaining only their family home.

Luigi suffered another stroke in 2004 leaving him with reduced mental capacity. He needed additional care so moved to a nursing home in 2006. Following which his wife wanted to change her English Will but not her Italian one and instructed a solicitor to ensure her new Will dealt only with her English assets.

The new Will left her husband £500,000 and distributed the remainder. Luigi lacked the capacity to make a new Will.

Following Carmen’s death a solicitor was appointed by the Court to manage Luigi’s affairs and his welfare. There was a dispute between Mr Bocelli and the Court appointed solicitor about Luigi’s wish to die in Italy the Court of Protection decided in favour of the Solicitor.

Luigi died in July 2008.

His niece and nephew sought the Courts advice as to whether the Italian will had the effect of revoking the English will. If it did, Carmen would be the sole beneficiary under intestacy rules in both England and Italy. The parties agreed that determination of the issue depended on where Luigi had been domiciled when he died.

The court found that by the time Luigi made the Italian will, his country of domicile was England therefore Italian law was irrelevant.

As Luigi had never been comfortable with the English language little weight could be attached to the fact that the later will was written in Italian. In fact no evidence was submitted that the Italian terminology “erede universale”, (a sole heir), had a particular meaning in Italian law. Therefore the presumption that Luigi, as an English-domiciled testator with a substantial estate in England, had intended his will to be construed in accordance with his law of domicile wasn’t rebutted

In March 2015, the Australian Government ratified the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will 1973.

The Convention seeks to harmonise and simplify the formalities for wills that have international characteristics. It does this by establishing a uniform law introducing a new form of will known as an International Will.

Under the Convention, to be a valid International Will, a Will must:

  • be made in writing, although it need not be written by the testator in his/her own hand and it can be written in any language; and
  • be signed and dated by the testator in the presence of two witnesses.

In addition, a certificate must be attached to the end of the International Will, signed by an authorised person, attesting that the requirements and procedures for drafting and execution of an International Will have been satisfied.

The key benefit of International Wills is that they provide testators with clarity when dealing with their worldwide assets as only one Will is required.

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