Jurisdiction and applicable law

According to Art. 538 I of the Swiss Civil Code (CC), succession commences in respect of the entire estate at the deceased’s last domicile.

Concerning international matters, jurisdiction of the Swiss judicial and administrative authorities is governed by Art. 86 to 89 of the Federal Act on Private International Law (APIL).

Art. 86 APIL provides that Swiss judicial or administrative authorities of the last domicile of the deceased have jurisdiction to take the necessary measures to deal with the inheritance estate and to settle disputes relating thereto. Nevertheless, this provision does not affect the exclusive jurisdiction claimed by the state where real property is located.

In certain conditions, when a Swiss national domiciled abroad deceases, judicial or administrative authorities of his or her place of origin might have jurisdiction. For instance when the foreign authorities do not deal with such estate or when the deceased submits his or her estate, partially or in whole, to the laws of Switzerland.

On the other hand, if a foreign national domiciled abroad at the time of death had property in Switzerland, Swiss judicial or administrative authorities at the place where such property is located have jurisdiction to deal with the portion of the estate located in Switzerland to the extent that the foreign authorities do not deal with such portion of the estate.

In accordance with Art. 90 I APIL, the inheritance estate of a person who had his or her last domicile in Switzerland is governed by Swiss law. However, a foreign national may submit by will or inheritance contract his or her estate to the law of one of his or her national states. Such submission is void if, at the time of death, the deceased no longer had such nationality or acquired Swiss nationality.

The law applicable to the inheritance estate determines what is included in the estate, who is entitled to inherit and for what share, who is liable for the debts of the estate, which legal institutions of inheritance law may be relied upon, and which measures may be ordered and subject to which requirements.

In addition, the implementing details are governed by the law of the state whose authority has jurisdiction. Such law governs in particular conservatory measures and the distribution of the estate, including the administration by an executor.

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This website aims to provide general information regarding Swiss law and should not be regarded as a legal opinion. For more specific advice, do not hesitate to contact us.