With millions of Maltese persons living outside Malta, particularly in the U.S.A, Australia, Canada and the U.K., a considerable number of issues and disputes arise regarding inheritances and estates. Malta’s succession law, which is mainly regulated by the Maltese Civil Code, regulates testate succession, the drafting of wills and intestate succession, and provides for solutions to such issues and disputes.
The majority of people prefer to decide for themselves how their assets will be disposed of when they pass away. Many times, this takes the form of a will. Alternatively, a trust allows more flexibility and serves an ideal medium for estate planning.
Succession Law & Immovable Property in Malta
The rules of succession law with respect to immovable property situated in Malta and owned by Maltese emigrants are determined in accordance with the lex situs and hence, Maltese law.
It is advisable for any person owning any property in Malta to regulate his estate by creating a Maltese will before a local notary. This is the best safeguard available in order to ensure peace of mind when it comes to the accurate devolution of a person’s estate in accordance with his/her precise demands.
Introduction of Succession Law in Malta
There are three ways of transferring the estate of the deceased individual (also referred to as the testator):
- through the express disposition of the law in the form of a will;
- through pre-determined modes of disposition by operation of the law if no will is presented
- through a trust.
Wills under Maltese Succession Law
The death of a testator brings into effect his/her will, where various dispositions may be carried out by virtue of title. Through these dispositions a testator may opt to leave all or a part of his property to his/her heirs. Otherwise, dispositions may be carried out by a singular title under which a testator bestows an individual asset onto his/her legatees. If for some reason an original successor or legatee is not able to, or unwilling to accept the legacy or inheritance, a testator may provide for the substitution of a person for the heir-institute or legatee.
There are different forms of Maltese wills, however ordinary wills can be of two kinds:
- public wills, received and published by a notary in the presence of two witnesses; and
- secret wills, secretly written by a testator or by a third party, sealed and delivered to a notary, who, in turn, draws up an act of the delivery on the will or its envelope. Hereafter, wills are delivered to the court of voluntary jurisdiction.
One may freely dispose of one’s estate as he/she pleases, however the law seeks to protect the rights of descendants and the surviving spouse or relatives by reserving a portion of the testator’s estate for the aforementioned persons.
For more information on the different types of wills, who has the legal capacity to draw up a will, as well as the portion of the estate which is explicitly reserved for the descendants and surviving spouse by the law, please refer to our publication.
Intestate Succession under Maltese Succession Law
Intestate succession is resorted to when the testator:
- died without a valid will; or
- has not disposed of the whole of his estate; or
- the heirs are unwilling or unable to accept the inheritance; or
- the right of accretion among the co-heirs does not arise.
The law provides for intestate succession, a pre-established succession mode which is based upon the presumed proximity of the relationship between the deceased and his/her relatives. Devolution of the estate of the deceased will be carried out through the operation of the law in favour of the descendants, the spouse, the ascendants and the collateral relatives. In absence of the aforementioned persons, or if the deceased is not survived by and of them, the inheritance will devolve upon the Government of Malta.
Our experienced specialists on Succession Law have written extensively on the topic of intestate succession. Here they have provided a brief and comprehensive overview of succession law in Malta.
Succession through Trusts in Malta
A trust may be also established for succession purposes in accordance, with the Malta Trusts & Trustees Act. Our knowledgeable Trusts Lawyers have vast experience in setting up as well as administration of trusts through Claris Trustees, our authorised trustee company. As trustees, we aim to help our clients protect and invest their wealth on a long-term basis by providing them with a favourable structure through which they can transfer their wealth from generation to generation.
Our Succession Law Practice
We provide assistance with:
- receiving property in trust;
- the payment of inheritance taxes due;
- drafting of any necessary contracts;
- representing your interests in Malta (by power of attorney);
- drafting of wills to regulate Maltese property;
- receiving property under testate or intestate succession