📌 [4.] Switzerland Inheritance law and succession rules
The discrepancies between the Anglo-Saxon common-law jurisdictions in the countries of the British Commonwealth and the Continental-European Swiss laws are substantial. They can be used as smart estate planning instruments.
If a foreigner did not exercise his right of choice with the “Professio Iuris” in his last will, Swiss law will apply automatically, including the forced heirship rules Switzerland. That means that his partner and children will automatically inherit the estate.
Let’s assume that he intentionally excluded his children (or one of his children) in the testament because they became greedy, disrespectful or became Hare Krishna followers, the majority of the assets will be inherited by the children by virtue of forced heirship rules in Switzerland against the expressed intentions of the foreigner based on his last will.
Statutory inheritance law will not apply if the deceased left a last will or a testament or an inheritance contract. Inheritance contracts are made simultaneously (lat. uni actu) in combination with matrimonial contracts with the support of a notary public.
According to the Swiss Civil Code, there are three forms of wills:
- the public will with a notary public
- hand-written will
- oral will for emergency situations (risk of death)
Switzerland inheritance law is based on the old Roman Law Principle of the Universal Succession. The transfer of assets to the heirs includes the assets and liabilities. That means that if a Switzerland estate is indebted you will inherit the debts. You have to do something against it if the financial situation is not transparent.
📌 [4.1.] How do I legally disclaim an inheritance?
- Are you unsure about the financial situation of a deceased relative?
- Are you afraid of inheriting debts?
Within the first three months following the death of your relative, you can legally disclaim your inheritance.
During this critical period, you should not do the mistake of taking possession of an item belonging to the estate. A small item, for example, a fishing rod, taken at home from the estate can be sufficient to be used as evidence against you for having accepted the entire estate, including the debts. You lost your right to disclaim the inheritance.
If the liabilities are likely to exceed the assets, you should disclaim the inheritance. As an heir, you have the right of inspecting all documents of the deceased relative, including Swiss bank account information and statements. Check the last tax return, bank statements and ask for an extract from the debt enforcement register for 20 CHF.
If the financial situation remains unclear, you can ask for a public inventory within one month after the notification of the decease. The competent authorities will make a list of assets and liabilities. They will make a publication in the Official Gazette calling potential creditors to claim their assets.
When the public inventory is finished, you are liable only for debts listed in the public inventory. Now, you have a clear picture of the financial situation because you know all assets and liabilities.
Now, you can send a registered letter to the competent authority and disclaim the inheritance. In most cantons, the competent authority is the District Court for Inheritance Matters at the deceased’s last residence. If nobody accepts the inheritance, the estate will be liquidated by the bankruptcy office.
📌 [4.2.] What is a Certificate of Inheritance in Switzerland? Why do you need one?
A Certificate of Inheritance is an official document that confirms the identity of all the heirs being entitled to inherit the estate. Swiss banks always ask for a Certificate of Inheritance in combination with a Swiss Death Certificate, before they transfer the assets from a deceased person’s bank account to the personal accounts of the heirs.
Based on the Certificate of Inheritance, banks can be sure to transfer the assets to the legitimate statutory (or appointed) heirs instead of false pretenders. Before transferring real estate properties to the heirs, the officer of the land registry asks for a Certificate of Inheritance and a Swiss Death Certificate.
Banks are very strict. Even a genuine Certificate of Inheritance is not always a guarantee for withdrawing money from a bank account after death. The slightest doubt that the succession case could result in a lawsuit is sufficient for leaving the account frozen until all pretenders are on the same page. This can take years.
If a Swiss bank is reluctant to help you transfer the assets in favour of your personal bank account call us for help. We helped thousands of clients with Swiss bank account inheritance.
Let us negotiate with the Swiss bank. To obtain the cooperation of the Swiss bank, we inform the bank that our clients have the intention to invest the assets inherited with the same bank.
Here is the reality. If you tell the Swiss bank that you need the money urgently to buy a new house at home you can be sure that the Swiss bank will not be cooperative with you.
Contrary to popular opinion, Swiss banks will not actively distribute the assets. When the banks learn that an account holder has died, they block the account. They have no interest in speeding up the distribution.
The assets are stocked in the bank while making money for the bank. The heirs must take the initiative and claim the assets at the Swiss bank account after death.
According to our professional experience, we have seen many non-resident heirs considering the Swiss bank as a sort of inheritance judge in charge of the distribution of assets. That’s a tremendous mistake. You are in the driver’s seat. You have to take action.
We at Caputo & Partners, specialise in international probate matters involving Swiss bank accounts in the name of non-resident Swiss bank account holders. It’s quite frequent that we help victims of online inheritance scams with a Swiss bank account.
If you are not sure if a Swiss death certificate or certificate of inheritance is genuine, call us for help. Do not send money to them. We will find out immediately if your documentation is genuine.
The scammers are using a fake Swiss Certificate of Inheritance and Swiss Death Certificate to convince their victims to make advance payments.