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The issue of inheritance is unpleasant for many people, which is why they occasionally neglect the estate planning or do not consider it at all. A timely and comprehensive planning of the estate by the testator of the family and relatives can save a lot of effort. In particular, if the inheritance of real estate or larger assets is to be clarified, a clearly defined estate distribution creates clarity and proactively prevents future conflict risks. Engel & Völkers Switzerland gives you an overview of Swiss inheritance laws in this article. Find out which aspects you should take into account in estate planning so that your inheritance can be shared in your interest.

The possibilities for estate planning: inheriting property and assets

In Swiss inheritance law, there are basically two possibilities in which the testator can determine the distribution of his estate. They are referred to as “testamentary dispositions” and may be in the form of a will or a contract of inheritance.
According to inheritance law, a will is defined as a unilateral legal transaction in which the testator is free to dispose of his estate. Wills can be written by hand or issued as a public document. In individual situations, the verbal pronouncement of the testamentary will may also function as a will, but a written fixation is usually easier to understand and to interpret more clearly. Since the testator alone is responsible for the creation, continuity and scope of the will, he may change the content of the document in later revisions, so it is a rather flexible form of estate planning.
This is where an essential difference to the contract of inheritance is founded: it is concluded between the testator and at least one other party and then publicly authenticated. This way, it becomes an irrevocable agreement and henceforth becomes binding for all parties involved in it.

Legacy or inheritance? Differences of both estate forms

Furthermore, the Swiss inheritance law distinguishes between the hereditary inheritance and the legacy, which are determined in the corresponding testamentary disposition. Persons who are used as inheritors by the deceased, receive post mortem, all or part of the estate in the form of monetary assets, real estate, and valuables. On the other hand, those who have been granted a legacy do not directly assume the role of an heir, but only have financial claims against the heirs, which they can then assert.
Regardless of the form of the estate, the testator should, however, take into account any mandatory entitlements. These are given primarily to the surviving spouse, descendants or parents of the testator, who are to be acquitted of possible conditions or obligations of the last will when entering into the inheritance.

Real Estate Property Planning: Limited Divisibility and Right of Use

Houses, villas, condos and other properties play a special role in estate planning. If several (compulsory) heirs are entitled to a share in the property, they can not be split up or only split up with a large loss of value. In addition, the surviving spouse has a priority right to use the property if he / she has lived in it together with the testator. In many cases, a clarifying conversation between prospective testator and later heir makes sense in estate planning. Here it can be discussed whether the value of the property is credited to the spouse’s share of the inheritance, and whether he reimburses the difference to the other heirs, or whether the property should be used or sold jointly in the case of inheritance. The sale is often the easiest way from a financial point of view, as every heir can pay out the inheritance share of the property from the sales price.
Even if an agreement can not be reached between the heirs, the sale of the property is often decided by the courts, however, such forced sales often result in a significantly lower sale price and additionally burden the relationship between the heirs. For this reason, prior agreements between all parties, which can also be recorded in the testator’s last will, are the simplest and most harmonious solution to dealing with estate and property.

Due to the complexity of the Swiss inheritance law, it is advisable in all cases to call in a specialist authority in your inheritance case. Engel & Völkers Switzerland is happy to assist you here: In an individual consultation we will find the best solution for the estate planning of your property.