law in Switzerland
Succession law defines the persons entitled to inherit and the
amounts to which the different heirs of the deceased are entitled.
When a person has passed away (the deceased), all his or her
assets and ultimately liabilities are transferred to his heirs.
These latter individuals become the common owners of the assets
and cannot in principle dispose of them at least until the distribution
of the estate has taken place. They thus form the group of heirs
called the “beneficiaries”.
To identify the estate, it may first be necessary to unravel
the matrimonial property of a deceased and his or her spouse.
Several mariage contracts exist and effectively define the
conditions of the estate’s distribution:
- participation in after-acquired property
- separation of property
- community of property
- specific contract
are the heirs?
In the absence of a will or an agreement on succession, the
heirs are determined by law. The husband or wife remains an
heir while for the other members of the family, it depends on
the degree of relationship with the deceased.
One draws a distinction between three groups which may have
a claim to part or all of an estate:
- First degree of relationship : consisting of the descendants
of the deceased (children, grand-children etc.)
- Second degree of relationship : consisting of the father
and mother of the deceased, his brothers and sisters and their
descendants (nephews, nieces etc.)
- Third degree of relationship: consisting of grandparents
of the deceased and/or their descendants, that is to say the
uncles and aunts as well as first cousins and their children
Anybody not belonging to one of these groups of relations cannot
claim to be an heir to the estate.
The law defines the order in which the members of the family
inherit the estate as well as the proportion to which each heir