What to do with your Italian inheritance

So you’ve inherited a villa or other property in Italy, now what? Transferring title is not as easy as you may think.

In the United States, people may leave or not leave their property to whomever they choose under the terms of their will. In most cases and states you can’t disinherit your spouse but you have no obligation to pass along your fortune to anyone else, including your kids. That’s not the same in Italy.

Italian InheritanceIn Italy, spouses and children inherit by law no matter what a testator declares in a will. So, if Mamma, Nonno or Zio Vincenzo dies and leaves you property on the Amalfi Coast or a villa in Tuscany, the first thing you should do is seek legal counsel at home and in Italy to make sure that your rights will be protected.

In the United States, the process of administering a will through court is called probate and is only handled by attorneys admitted to practice unless you act pro se or on your own behalf. In Italy, the process is called succession and is generally not handled by attorneys and that’s where problems can occur if the heirs are in different countries and may not be Italian citizens.

New York attorneys versed in a multi-national practice can assist you and work with local counsel in Italy or foreign legal consultants here in the US but they cannot represent you in Italy unless they are also admitted to the bar in Italy. In all cases, you will need to provide documents to further the succession in Italy including affidavits, death certificates, powers of attorney, among others. That sounds easy enough but unless the American documents are drafted appropriately, they will be rejected in Italy, often by local processors who have no experience with international law.

Further, drafting correctly is only half of the process. Under the Hague Convention, in order for the American documents to be recognized by a court in Italy, they must be notarized and Apostilled by the US State Department, through a local Embassy, or with an individual Secretary of State and their deputies. That is supposed to provide assurance to foreign authorities that the documents may be relied on but time and again I have seen them rejected. The problem is that in Italy, non-attorneys process succession and more often than not, they are unfamiliar with international protocols.

Whether it is money, art or property at stake in Italy, it is best to retain an estate attorney on both sides of the Atlantic rather than lose your rightful inheritance in Italy.

Pyramid Power in NYC

Rising from the construction ashes of Hell’s Kitchen is definitely a beauty to behold. There’s a tetrahedron rising over West 57th Street that’s about to change the NYC skyline and Manhattan real estate unlike any other straight box tower thrown up in the last few decades.

There is skyscraper construction and then there is true architectural groundbreaking beauty and the Durst Pyramid is clearly the latter.  The building at 625 West 57th Street is taking shape, turning into one of the city’s most unique architectural wonders since the Chrysler Building in 1928 or Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, The Guggenheim Museum in 1959.

West 57th PyramidThe project is the inaugural North American design of the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for the Durst Organization.  The four plane triangular construction is meant to bring natural light deep into the structure and afford some 700 lucky owners the sunny, Hudson River views which set the standard for the NYC real estate market.  The luxury apartments will be set atop glass enclosed retail/commercial space all set to welcome tenants and owners early in 2016.

 Looking to buy/sell real estate in New York?

Lisa Fantino, Associate Broker

J.Philip Real Estate

Spring into Tax Savings

Spring has sprung and so has tax grievance season in Westchester.  That’s when homeowners come out of the woodwork with dreams of reducing their property taxes.  While the filing deadline has passed for the villages, the deadline for the towns and most cities in Westchester is just a few short months away on June 16, 2015.

Westchester Tax Grievance

Yet, the landscape is different this year and commonplace reductions will not be as easily won as in past years.  The reason is that many municipalities undertook market re-assessment projects in recent years:  Mamaroneck in 2013; Scarsdale in 2014; and Ossining this year for the first time in 43 years.  The revaluations have resulted in a seismic shift with lower tax bills for some and shockingly higher assessments for others.  The reality is that other than the rare exception, your property’s assessed value is now closer to the realized market value if your town has just undergone the reassessment process.

The process is easy and costs minimal compared to the savings which are often realized.  To file at the local level costs nothing.  Tax grievance attorneys generally charge a contingency fee, meaning that you pay nothing if your taxes are not reduced.  The only initial expense is the appraisal which must be done, generally less than $600 depending on your location.

Many homeowners try to employ self-help in filing the grievance application, but it’s worth retaining an attorney from the start.  If your application is denied then the tax grievance attorney will file a court appeal on your behalf if he or she is already on board.

It is also important to keep in mind that most municipalities in Westchester base your taxes on the prior year’s assessment, so if your town’s grievance deadline is June 16th for the 2015 tax roll, any reduction will not be realized until your 2016 taxes.  Therefore, don’t delay because prospective savings are still a year away.

Your taxes will not increase simply because you file a grievance application and lower property taxes can be a great asset if trying to sell your house in Westchester or anywhere else in the New York market.

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