Inheritance and estate planning

Parentel system

"The good follows the blood"

The succession always starts from the testator, not from a married couple. Although spouses have a legal claim to the inheritance, they do not belong to any parentel. In the 1st parentel are the direct descendants of the deceased as well as their descendants and so on.

In the 2nd parentel we are in the tribe of the mother and father of the deceased person, so here we have brother and sister, nieces and nephews and so on. In the 3rd parentel, the grandparents' tribe is represented, i.e. aunts and uncles of the deceased person including their descendants.

If there are parties entitled to inherit in the 1st parentel, this automatically excludes the next tribe. If the deceased person leaves no direct descendants, one searches in the 2nd parentel. If the parents are also deceased, however, one would first continue to follow the blood and thus the siblings or their descendants would be entitled to inherit. If no descendants are found in this tribe either, the 3rd parentel follows via the grandparents and their descendants.

If there is no will, the succession without legal heirs ends with the third party and the entire estate goes to the state, canton or, as a rule, to the municipality of residence. 

You have the option of including your own children, parents and spouse in a so-called compulsory portion in your will. This allows you to bequeath a portion as you wish.

A summary of the compulsory parts and information on the change in the law as of 1.1.2023
you will find here.

The will

We basically know three types of wills: the handwritten will, the public will and, in emergency situations, the oral will. 

However, the most common and also simplest type is the handwritten will. If the deceased person does not leave a will, intestate succession takes effect by law. The following formal requirements apply to the respective will:

Handwritten will:

  • Completely by hand
  • Dated and signed
  • Location (optional, recommended)

It is best to deposit the will in a safe place and also inform your 
relatives about it. We recommend here that the will be signed by a cantonal office such as the The inheritance office is responsible for the safekeeping of the documents.

Public Will:
The public will is notarised by a notary in the presence of two witnesses. The notary also confirms that the author is capable of judgement. The costs for the notarisation vary from canton to canton, but normally amount to a few hundred francs.

Oral Will:
The oral will is a so-called emergency will for situations in which one no longer has the possibility to write another will: For example, if one's life is in danger after an accident. In order for this will to be valid, two witnesses are needed who are not beneficiaries in the will and are not related to the author.

The witnesses must immediately report the last will and testament to an official body and certify it.

Marriage- Inheritance contract

In order to optimally benefit one's loved ones, there are, on the one hand, the will and, on the other hand, the variants of a marriage or inheritance contract. By concluding a marriage and inheritance contract during their lifetime, married couples can benefit themselves in the best possible way. With a marriage contract, it can be regulated in the ordinary matrimonial property regime that the surviving spouse receives the entire inheritance, i.e. everything that was jointly earned during the marriage. Already with this instrument, the share falling into the estate can be reduced and the surviving person is in a better financial position. Be careful, however, in the case of children who are not joint heirs: Here it must always be possible to pay out at least the compulsory portion.

An additional inheritance contract, which is validated by public notarisation and with the participation of two witnesses, can benefit the surviving person even better. It can only be revoked or amended if all persons involved agree. An inheritance contract can be concluded between the testator and one or more persons. Such a contract is usually drawn up if persons, for example spouses, wish to benefit each other irrevocably or if one voluntarily waives the compulsory portion. With a contract of inheritance, one can exclude that heirs with a protected compulsory portion assert claims to which they have waived at the time.

Why a contract of inheritance? If the assets in the estate consist exclusively of real estate, in the worst case one would have to sell the real estate in order to pay out the heirs who are protected by the compulsory portion. This can be avoided with an inheritance contract. But here, too, caution applies in the case of children who are not joint heirs.

Patchwork families

Laws that are still in force today were often written based on circumstances from many decades ago. Today, however, more than 40 % of all marriages are divorced or people live in cohabitation with joint and non-joint children.

Even after the revision, which will come into force on 1 January 2023, the law is tailored to traditional families: unmarried partners or stepchildren will still not benefit from the law.

Do you have a similar situation and do not know who legally inherits or would you like to draw up an overview so that you can take the appropriate steps?

Real estate in the estate

It is not uncommon for the largest part of the inherited assets to come from a property. It becomes confusing above all when several compulsory portions of protected heirs have to be taken into account or the relationship in the family is no longer the best.

  • Who takes over the property?
  • Should it be sold?
  • Can I afford to take over the property and pay off my siblings?
  • Who pays inheritance tax?
To avoid disputes among the descendants or having to pay taxes for nothing, it is advisable to settle this matter with the parties involved during your lifetime. We will be happy to support you in the implementation and accompany you step by step.