An American citizen died in the Dominican Republic 15 years ago without a will. His last address was in the DR. We recently learned he owns property in Italy (he was born there and inherited his parents' house and properties). His children, as his only heirs, now have the responsibility of dealing with these Italian properties. In what country do they set up his Estate and go to probate court?

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    – feetwet
    Commented Mar 20 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


Neither the Dominican Republic, whose legal system is modeled on Spanish law, nor Italy, have a common law style probate system.

The affairs of a decedent (i.e. someone who has died) are generally governed by either the law of the place where the decedent was domiciled (i.e. resided with no specific intent to return to another true home) at death, or by the place where real property is located. The decedent's citizenship is irrelevant.

Since the only property remaining in his estate is in Italy and includes real property, the passing of this property to the next generation should be handled in Italy in the place where the real property is located. Any proceeding in the Dominican Republic would have to have an ancillary proceeding of some kind in Italy anyway (although, as a comment accurately notes, a certified copy of the death certificate from the Dominican Republic would almost surely be necessary to prove that the decedent died on a particular date, and death certificates are issued by the government with authority over the place that someone died).

Given the gap in time, the solution may be one to adjudicate title to the property, or may be the Italian version of a probate proceeding. It is possible that the property passed by operation of law to the decedent's children through inaction, and that what needs to be done is to formalize what has already happened legally without court intervention.

This is beyond what any reasonable person could manage themselves and calls for retaining a Italian lawyer who handles the affairs of decedents and real property issues, probably one with an office near where the real property is located.

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    As a first step, getting a certified death certificate registered at the responsible commune in Italy should be done. Any procedings in Italy would require this. The Italian consulate may be helpfull here, especially if he was also an Italian citizen. Commented Mar 20 at 16:52

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