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What does the new Swiss law on inheritance mean for me as a Swiss woman living abroad?

27.01.2023 – SMILLA SCHÄR, OSA LEGAL DEPARTMENT

The question: I am a Swiss woman who has taken early retirement and is now living abroad. On 1 January 2023, the new Swiss inheritance law came into effect. Can you tell me about the most important changes this law will introduce? Can I now have my estate handled via Switzerland and, for example, make sure my eldest daughter receives the maximum amount?

The answer: The law on inheritance when you have moved abroad is a complex topic. The answer to your question depends on where you are living. We therefore recommend, as a general rule, that you seek advice on your specific situation from an expert in international inheritance law.

In Switzerland, the Federal Act on Private International Law (IPRG) applies, which is used as a national legal structure in international inheritance law issues. For Swiss people whose most recent place of residence is abroad, the legal structure that determines the country of residence for such a circumstance applies. As a Swiss Abroad, you can also have your inheritance governed by Swiss law via a writ or a contract of inheritance, if this is not already the case by default in your country of residence. Nonetheless, you should contact the authorities of your country of residence to find out if they will recognise a writ of this nature. This option is not available for plots of land where a country asserts sole jurisdiction over immovable property.

The IPRG is not affected by the current revision in the law and continues to apply unchanged. Therefore, if you should decide to make your inheritance subject to Swiss law, the following changes also apply to you.

Arranging your estate fairly is a challenge. Photo: iStock

In principle, you can stipulate in your will that you want your inheritance to be settled under Swiss law. However, certain limits have been imposed on the so-called compulsory portions: some family members are entitled to a minimum portion of your inheritance, determined by law. To take account of alternative forms of family life, however, heirs will now be able to dispose of their estate more freely under the new law. The compulsory portions are now lower: from 2023 onwards, the compulsory portion for parents will be abolished. The compulsory portion for children is reduced from three quarters to half of the legal estate, bringing it in line with the (unmodified) compulsory portion for spouses and registered partners.

The portion of your estate that you will be able to bequeath to your eldest daughter therefore depends on your other family relationships. If you are married or in a registered partnership, you will have to observe the corresponding compulsory portion. All your children will also be entitled to their respective compulsory portions. With the change in the law, however, you can now dispose of half your estate however you like. If you so wish, you can bequeath this part to your eldest daughter in full, in addition to the compulsory portion to which she is entitled by law.

OSA Legal Department, info@swisscommunity.org

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