Statutory inheritance and shares in estates

Swiss inheritance law imposes a statutory order of inheritance. This assertion is valid on the condition that the deceased did not make any testamentary provisions.

According to the Swiss Civil Code, the order of inheritance is determined by a system of family relationships (parentele or orders) of the deceased. Three different parenteles exist under the law. The first one constitutes the issue or direct descendants of the deceased (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.). The second one is composed by the parents of the deceased and their issue (i.e. the deceased’s siblings). The third one is formed by the grandparents and their issue.

There is a hierarchy among the three orders: as long as at least one member of a parentele can inherit from the deceased, all members of the following orders are completely excluded from the inheritance estate.

Four general principles apply to parenteles:

  • Priority: inside one order, the older generation is prior and excludes the following generations from inheritance estate;
  • Equality: the heirs of the same generation inherit equally;
  • Representation: if, for various reasons (predecease, disinheritance, unworthiness to inherit or disclaimer), heads of one parentele cannot inherit, their issue generally represent them and inherit instead of them;
  • Growth: if an heir does not inherit and is not represented, the share that he or she would have received would grow those of the other heirs of the parentele.

The spouse or the registered partner of the deceased inherits outside the system of orders, despite being considered as statutory beneficiaries. The proportion of the estate, however, depends on whether or not the deceased left relatives of the first and/or of the second orders. In any case, the third order does not inherit if the deceased left a surviving spouse or a registered partner.

The proportions of the shares of each heir vary considerably according to the specificities of each individual case. Do not hesitate to contact a lawyer should you require additional information concerning these calculations.

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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.