Inheritance in Switzerland

What legislations apply if you die as a resident in Switzerland? Many foreigners forget to investigate this aspect, which may cause major financial problems for the bereaved family.

Deaths in Switzerland
When a foreign citizen living and dying in Switzerland, the custom is that one’s entire fortune is part of the genome under the Swiss law of inheritance. The genome initially accrues the heirs who have the opportunity to dispose the funds if they form a hereditary unity (“Erbengemeinschaft”). In order to identify who inherits what, a settlement called “güterrechtliche Abrechnung” must be made nevertheless. Here it is important to identify the three types of assets:

  1. The wife’s asset
  2. The husband’s asset
  3. Common asset

How much do you inherit?
Just as in many other countries, there are in Switzerland rightful heirs. Rightful heirs are heirs who will always inherit, for example spouses or children. If you have not created a will or inheritance agreement, the law decides who inherits. This means that people who are closely related to the deceased inherit the most. Splitting the relatives are in Switzerland defined by inheritance classes:

  1. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
  2. Parents, siblings and their children
  3. Grandparents and their children, that is, aunts, uncles, and cousins

If the deceased has not made a will or inheritance agreement, the law determines how much the husband or the wife inherits. If you have children, the spouse receives half of the inheritance. The other half is shared among the children. If there are no children but only heirs from the second inherited class (parents, siblings and their children), the spouse will inherit ¾, while the rest goes to the heirs of the second inheritance class.

Foreigners in Switzerland
If you as a foreigner in Switzerland want your legacy to be treated under the laws of your country of birth, it is possible if you have determined this through a Swiss will. If, on the other hand, you have not made a will, the property will be counted in accordance with Swiss regulations.

To learn more about this, please contact us.