Introduction: International Inheritance Law

The present website is designed to provide you with information, checklists and examples of Swiss inheritance law. In-depth information on specific topics concerning “inheritance and bequests” is available from the respective dedicated website sections (see respective link).


» The heirs

  • Statutory heirs
  • Appointed heirs

» The statutory heirs

  • Related persons (kinship system: 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree of kinship)
  • Surviving spouse / surviving registered partner
  • The state

» The appointed heirs

  • Natural persons
  • Legal entities
  • Group of persons without own legal personality
  • The state
  • Special cases: appointment of prior heirs and reversionary heirs / appointment of substitute heirs
  • Means of appointing heirs: testament / inheritance agreement

» Loss / non-establishment of inheritance status

  • Prior decease / simultaneous death
  • Non-existence of the legal entity
  • Renunciation
  • Comprehensive inheritance waiver
  • Unworthiness to inherit
  • (Punitive) disinheritance
  • Declaration of invalidity of a disposition mortis causa

» Statutory succession / statutory portions of the estate

  • In the event of the absence of a disposition mortis causa
  • Succession in accordance with the law à statutory portions of the estate

» Discretionary portion and protection of the compulsory portion

  • Discretionary portion = the portion of the estate above the compulsory portion
  • Persons protected by compulsory portions: descendants, parents and spouse / registered partner
  • Level of the obligatory portion:
    • descendants: ¾ of the statutory inheritance entitlement
    • parents: ½ of the statutory inheritance entitlement
    • spouse / registered partner: ½ of the statutory inheritance entitlement

» The disposition forms

  • Testament
  • Inheritance agreement

» The testament

  • Definition and delimitation
  • Testamentary capacity
  • Forms of establishment
  • Function
  • Revocation
  • Deposition
  • Search
  • Delivery
  • Opening
  • Interpretation
  • Testamentary defects and legal remedies

» Testamentary instructions

  • Declarations
  • Choice of law
  • Appointment of heirs, in particular the appointment of prior heirs and reversionary heirs as well as the appointment of substitute heirs
  • Establishment of bequests, in particular prior bequests and reversionary bequests as well as substitute bequests
  • Partitioning rules (e.g. “the daughter shall receive the porcelain service X”; “the son shall receive the hunting rifle Y”)
  • Setting up a foundation (ZGB 493)
  • Requirements (ZGB 482)
  • Conditions (ZGB 482)
  • Punitive and preventative disinheritance
  • Appointment of an executor
  • Wishes

» Opening the devolution of the estate

  • Place of the opening
  • Place of jurisdiction, prorogation and court of arbitration
  • Preconditions for attaining the status of an heir
  • Effects of the devolution of the estate

» Acquisition of inheritance and bequest

  • Acquisition of the inheritance
  • Acquisition of the bequest

» Security measures

  • Sealing the inheritance and drawing up a security inventory
  • Inheritance administration

» Opening the disposition mortis causa

  • Submission obligation
  • Determining the heirs
  • Opening and notification
  • “Delivery” of the inheritance (notification of possession)
  • Inheritance certificate and executor certificate

» Heir liability

  • Debts of the testator = personal debts of the heirs

» Renunciation of inheritance and bequest

  • Power of renunciation
  • Deadline and forms
  • Consequences of the renunciation

» Public inventory

  • Purpose and preconditions
  • Procedures
  • Effects of drawing up a public inventory

» Official liquidation

  • Purpose and preconditions
  • Procedures
  • Effects

» Disposing of portions of the estate

  • Before the succession
  • After the succession

» Community of heirs

  • Community of joint owners
  • Administration, disposition and representation
  • Liability
  • Entitlement to partitioning

» Inheritance lawsuit

  • Differentiation from vindication lawsuits under substantive law
  • Proof of entitlement
  • Forfeit deadlines

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