Maltese law provides for the rights of inheritance heirs through the express intentions of the deceased through a legal will or other means expressly provided for in the absence of a dedicated will.
The deceased will be referred to as the ‘testator’. In contrast, the heir receiving the inheritance will be referred to as the ‘heir’ or ‘beneficiary’. Third parties bequeathed property or funds will be referred to as legatees. Inheritance can also be passed down through a trust.
The will that provides for the rights of heirs
A will becomes active when the testator dies. It will contain declarations by ‘universal title of virtue’ where the testator passes on all or a portion of their property and funds to their heirs. It may also contain dispositions by the testator to bequeath parts of their property to specific legatees (third party beneficiaries).
Another provision may be made to substitute an heir or legatee if the most immediate ones (or specific ones in the case of legatees) do not want or cannot accept the bequeathed property.
This can happen in cases where next of kin heirs or legatees may be mentally unable to accept legal responsibility in cases of, for example, dementia.
Different types of wills
The most common type of will is a public will. A notary publishes this with two witnesses present. The term ‘public’ refers only to the will being announced and kept through the Public Registry. The contents of the will remain private.
A secret will is written by the testator and delivered sealed to a notary tasked with drawing up an act of delivery before handing it to the court of voluntary jurisdiction.
A unica charta may be drawn up jointly by a married couple. A will made outside of Malta is deemed valid if it is drawn up according to the other country’s laws.
Who can make a will
The law stipulates who cannot make a will. This includes people under 17, interdicted people on the grounds of insanity, people who cannot understand unless helped by an interpreter, people of unsound mind when making the will.
Rights of receivers
All children who were not yet conceived at the time of the testator’s death may receive a will. The same applies to children who were not yet conceived at the time of fulfilling a suspensive condition on which the disposition depended.
Those who cannot receive a will include those guilty of murdering the testator or spouse. Those charging the testator with false crimes where the testator has been induced to change a will and where a testator was prevented from making a new will cannot receive a will as well.