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I am Swiss and live abroad. I have a close relationship with Switzerland and would like my estate to be administered through Switzerland. Is this possible or does it have to be done in my country of residence? Where can I deposit my will?
The country of residence is generally responsible for inheritance proceedings, which is why the laws of that country usually also apply in the case of inheritance following a death.
In theory, it is also possible to specify in a will that the inheritance should be governed by Swiss law and that the Swiss authorities should be responsible for dealing with it. However, anyone wishing to specify this should check with the competent authorities in the country of residence beforehand whether such a regulation will be recognised. This is not an option for real estate; succession in this case usually has to be governed by the law of the state on whose territory the property is located.
The new European succession regulation will enter into force on 17 August 2015 in all EU states except for Denmark, Ireland and the UK. This regulation also applies to Swiss residing in EU states which adopt the EU inheritance law. The new succession regulation stipulates that, in the event of death, the inheritance law of the country in which the deceased was last domiciled will apply. This will also apply to real estate. The regulation nevertheless also provides for the opportunity to choose by will the inheritance law of the country of which the person writing the will is a citizen.
It should be noted that the inheritance arrangement (how the estate is divided) and inheritance tax (which tax rate applies) concern two different areas. The information above only relates to the inheritance arrangement and not inheritance tax.
As far as depositing a will is concerned, we generally recommend contacting the Swiss representation (consulate or embassy) responsible for the place of residence abroad. It is possible to deposit a will there in certain cases. Swiss representations will also provide the contact details of local notaries. If you are unable to contact the embassy by telephone, you can also enquire using the FDFA helpline:
Consular Directorate, helpline: Tel.: +41 800 24-7-365, email@example.com
OSA’s Legal Department provides general legal information on Swiss law and specifically in areas that concern the Swiss Abroad. It does not provide information on foreign law and does not intervene in disputes between private parties.