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Inheritance - Rights of heirs overview

Maltese law provides for the rights of inheritance heirs through the express intentions of the deceased through a legal will, or through other means expressly provided for in the absence of a dedicated will.

The deceased will be referred to as the ‘testator’ while 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, which is dealt with in another section of our website.

What wills provide for 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 his or her 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 are not able to 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. This is published by a notary with two witnesses present. The term ‘public’ refers only in that the will is 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 who is 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 laws of the other country.

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

Those who are able to receive a will includes all children who at the time of the testator’s death or of the fulfilment of a suspensive condition on which the disposition depended, were not yet conceived.

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.

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