Succession and Last Will

by | Apr 21, 2020

Succession in Switzerland – Last Will

According to the general provisions of the Swiss International Private Law Act, Swiss courts or administrative authorities at the decedent’s last domicile shall have jurisdiction over probate proceedings and inheritance disputes. The jurisdiction of a state who claims exclusive jurisdiction over real estate within its territory remains reserved. The estate of a person with his or her last domicile in Switzerland will in principle be subject to Swiss law.

Order of succession in Switzerland

The Swiss Civil Code determines the order of succession. The closest heirs of a decedent are the descendants. As a rule, the children shall inherit in equal parts; adoptive children have the legal status of natural children. Their own issue takes the position of predeceased children.

In case the decedent does not leave any children, the inheritance shall devolve to the issue of the parents. Their descendants in all degrees per stirpes shall substitute a predeceased mother or father. The surviving spouse or registered partner is legal heir as well.

Swiss law states statutory entitlements for legal heirs (so-called forced heirship portion). Hence, the legal heirs are entitled to a certain percentage of the decedent’s inheritance. This percentage depends on whom the legal heirs have to share with in the estate.

Last will

In order to arrange for a succession different from the intestate succession, a last will or inheritance contract may be drawn up. Nevertheless, a last will, just as an inheritance contract, will have to comply with the statutory entitlements of the legal heirs. According to Swiss law, a last will shall be valid as regards its form if it is drawn up in the form of a public deed or in holographic form.

A foreigner may, be it by last will or inheritance contract, subject his or her estate to the laws of his or her home country (professio iuris). Such disposition shall, however, become null and void if, at the time of death, the decedent was no longer a national of that state or if in the meantime he or she had become a Swiss national.

The Hague Convention on the Conflicts of Laws relating to the Form of Testamentary Dispositions will shall govern the form of a last will. Therefore, a testamentary disposition shall be valid from a formal point of view, if its form complies with the international law:

  1. of the place where the testator has drawn it up;
  2. of a nationality possessed by the testator, either at the time he made the disposition or at the time of his death
  3. of a place in which the testator had his domicile either at the time when he made the disposition, or at the time of his death
  4. of the place in which the testator had his habitual residence either at the time when he made the disposition, or at the time of his death
  5. as far as immovables are concerned, of the place where they are located.

Walter H. Boss

Walter Boss