Inheritance Law

Information on inheritance law for resident foreigners and their families with assets in and outside of Switzerland...

Under Swiss law, descendants, parents and spouses are statutory heirs. In absence of a will or inheritance contract, in principle the following applies:

  • The surviving spouse gets:
    • half of the estate if there are descendants of the deceased
    • three quarters of the estate if there are no descendants but parental heirs
    • if there are no parental heirs either, the full estate. Children always inherit in equal shares

Statutory heirs are protected by the mandatory rules on statutory legal portions (also called forced heirship). This means that a person may not dispose of his entire estate at their discretion. Rather, their descendants, surviving parents and spouses are entitled to a portion of the estate by statutory law.

The statutory legal portions are based on the aforementioned statutory quotas which the statutory heirs will get if a person dies intestate. Descendants are entitled to three quarters of their statutory quota, and surviving parents and spouses each to one half of their respective statutory quota.

It is important to note that under Swiss law, the heirs acquire all assets and all liabilities of the deceased at the moment of death. The heirs form a simple partnership (Communauté héréditaire/Erbengemeinschaft) until the estate has been divided according to the applicable rules.


Every effort has been made to offer information that is current, correct and clearly expressed. The information in this summary is intended to be no more than a general overview of the position and certain details have been deliberately omitted. The contents of this page should not be taken as an authoritative statement of Swiss law and practice. Neither the author nor the publisher are responsible for the results of actions taken on the basis of information contained in this summary, nor for any errors or omissions. This text is not intended to render legal, accounting or tax advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional advice concerning specific matters before making any decision.

Information supplied by Dr. Michael A Meer, LL.M., Attorney at Law
Gruninger Hunziker AG, Zürich / Bern. Tel: +41 (0) 58 356 5050,
e-mail / web:
Copyright © 2009 GHR Rechtsanwälte AG All Rights Reserved
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