Swiss inheritance law: What will change in 2022

Drawing up a will or testament - or already have one? There are some important changes you need to know about.

A person stacks coins on a table.
Inheritance law is set to change in the new year. Here's what you need to know. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

In my recent article “7 things you need to know about Swiss inheritance law”, I promised I would cover the subject of the amendments to the Swiss federal law on inheritance. 

Please note that because of the complexity of Swiss federal inheritance law, this article is not exhaustive regarding the amendments and consulting a lawyer or a notary is strongly recommended.

READ MORE: 7 things you need to know about Swiss inheritance law

What will change in Swiss inheritance law in 2023

As of 1st January, 2023, the amendments of Swiss inheritance law will become effective.

According to the Swiss federal international private law rules concerning inheritance, as a foreigner, unless there is a specific convention concerning inheritance between your home country and Switzerland, you have the choice of making your will governed by the laws of your home country or the laws of Switzerland.

The authorities of the country of your last domicile, at the time of your demise, will in principle be competent for the execution of your will.

The Swiss Federal Assembly voted in favour of a larger liberty of decision over one’s assets.

In principle, these changes will normally apply to your inheritance if you are a Swiss citizen living abroad who has chosen Swiss law for your inheritance or a foreigner living in Switzerland and you have not chosen the law of your nationality. 

If you have already prepared a will, we advise you to consult your notary or lawyer to make any necessary amendments to your will, if needed.

It will be the date of your demise which will determine whether the current inheritance law or the new inheritance law applies to your will. 

To avoid disputes between legal heirs and heirs as to whether the testator had knowledge of the changes in the inheritance law, it is recommended to update one’s will after 2023, to clear all doubts.

Definition of Legal heirs 

The compulsory reserve is the part of your inheritance that must be provided imperatively to your legal heirs i.e. your wife/husband/registered partner (referred to in this article as “Partner”), and/or your child or children (referred to in this article as “Descendants”). Your parents are your legal heirs only if you have no children. Your siblings are never your legal heirs.

From 1st January 2023, your parents will no longer have legal entitlement to a compulsory reserve.

Greater freedom of disposition by will

From 1st January, 2023, under Swiss inheritance law, you shall have a greater liberty of choice over the disposal of your assets in your will.

Today, in your will, if you have a Partner and Descendants, the compulsory reserve is of 5/8th of your assets and you can dispose freely of 3/8th of your assets. 

From 1st January, 2023, the compulsory reserve of all your heirs will only be of half of your estate.

Practically, it means that your Partner will be entitled to a reserve of at least 37.5 percent of your assets if he/she inherits alone, and to one quarter if you have Descendants.

Alternatively, your Descendants will be entitled to at least one half of your assets if they inherit alone, and to one quarter if your Partner is still alive.

EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

Attributing the “right of usufruct” to your surviving Partner

Usufruct is the right to use and benefit from a property, the ownership of which belongs to another person. The person who enjoys the usufruct is called the usufructuary.

The usufruct can be granted to the Partner on all the inheritance of the common Descendants. This usufruct is taken into account in the calculation of the compulsory reserve to which the Partner is legally entitled. This does not change under the new law.

The only thing which does change is the proportion of the compulsory reserve to which the Partner is entitled, as explained in the previous paragraph.

Currently, the right of usufruct on the common Descendants’ inheritance ends if the surviving Partner remarries. Under the new law, this is also the case if the Partner enters into a registered partnership. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Switzerland

Filing for divorce will possibly exclude your spouse from your inheritance

The new law provides that, unless the contrary is specifically mentioned, the dispositions of your will are going to cease to apply to your Partner if you filed for an amicable divorce or lived separated for at least two years on the date of your demise.

The same applies by analogy to the dissolution of a partnership.

Action in recovery of the inheritance due (“Action en reduction”)

If you are entitled by law to a compulsory reserve and do not receive the corresponding amount at the time of the distribution of the inheritance, you may file a lawsuit to recover the amount of your compulsory reserve. 

Currently, the law does not provide in which order of priority the amounts distributed can be reclaimed.

The new law provides that the legal heirs who have been “deprived” of their compulsory reserve can exercise their “action en reduction” by following a certain order of priority, e.g. by claiming back from people who received gifts just before the death of the deceased.

This article was prepared by Renuka Cavadini of Page & Partners.

Page & Partners provides an introductory call of 20 minutes in English. We look forward to being able to assist you.

Tél.+4122 839 81 50

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Everything that changes in Switzerland in May 2022

From changing Covid rules to the next round of referenda, this is what is happening in Switzerland in May 2022.

Everything that changes in Switzerland in May 2022

May 1st: Labour Day

Like many other countries Switzerland is celebrating Labour Day on May 1st (which has nothing to do with the Labor Day in the United States, which falls on the first Monday of September).

In Switzerland, it is also known as International Workers’ Day and May Day.

As it is falling on a Sunday this year, you will not get half a day off work – although a movement has been kick started to change all that. 

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

May 2nd: All entry restrictions to Switzerland will be lifted

Travellers from abroad will once again be able to enter Switzerland or apply for a visa under the usual (pre-Covid) conditions.

The last entry restrictions still in force be dropped on May 2nd.

On that date, vaccine requirement for all tourists, regardless of where they come from, will fall.

READ MORE: Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from May 2nd

May 2nd: New Covid certificate enters into force

The Federal Council decided that Covid recovery certificates can be issued on the basis of a positive rapid antigen test or a laboratory-based immunological analysis.

Because of new rules in the EU, these certificates will be recognised internationally. 

They can be issued retroactively for positive test results from October 2nd, 2021. 

However, “because no similar rules existed at EU level at the time, they were only valid in Switzerland. Certificates already issued on this basis must be applied for again and re-issued for international compatibility”.  

May 9th: Consultation for extension of Covid law ends

Although no Covid measures are currently in place in Switzerland – and the few that remain for entering the country will be removed on May 2nd – the legal framework which allows the government to make Covid rules remains in place. 

Currently, the Swiss government is undergoing a consultation with the cantons, which is set to end on May 9th, about the continuation of the framework. 

Issues such as covering the costs for Covid tests and issuing Covid certificates for travel abroad will be discussed. 

While the Covid Act is currently set to expire at the end of 2022, it is expected to be extended until at least June 2024. More information is available here

May 15th: Switzerland votes

In the second of four rounds of national referendums scheduled for 2022, the Swiss will head to the polls on May 15th to decide on three issues: The Film Act, support for European border guards (Frontex), and transplant /organ donation law.

More information about issues at stake can be found here:

EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s May referendums?

May 26th: Ascension Day

Thursday May 26th will mark the Ascension Day, a religious holiday, which is a national public holiday in Switzerland.  

While the following day, Friday the 27th, is not a public holiday — that is, stores and most other businesses operate as usual — schools and some offices remain closed until Monday.

READ MORE: When are the public holidays in Switzerland in 2022?

Spring in full swing

After a cold and miserable winter and spring, things should improve from May onwards in Switzerland. 

Although May is a notoriously temperamental month – with temperatures hitting highs of 20C degrees in Geneva, Bern, Basel and Zurich – the nights can still get very cold, with lows touching on 0C. 

Whatever you plan on doing in Switzerland in May, channel your inner Swiss and remember that preparation is your friend, so bring appropriate clothing for rain, cold and of course golden sunshine.