Key questions and answers about the revision of the law of succession

Nov 24, 2022.

The revision of Switzerland’s law of succession will enter into force on 1 January 2023. In this interview with Guido Studier, a training expert at Generali Switzerland, we discuss the most important questions arising from the changes. We also explain which groups of people will be affected. Might the law of succession also have an impact on your retirement provision? We’ve got that covered too.

Guido, what is changing with the new law of succession?

The revised law will give people more freedom of choice. Testators will be free to define where to leave a larger share of their estates when writing a will.


What do the changes mean for statutory entitlements?

As things stand, the statutory entitlement – that is the fixed minimum amount of inheritance – for biological and adopted children is three-quarters. In future, this will be reduced to one-half. The statutory entitlement for parents will be removed altogether. The statutory entitlement for spouses, on the other hand, is not changing: it will remain at half of the statutory succession right.

Figure 1: Overview of the changes to statutory entitlements from 1 January 2023



I haven’t written a will yet. Is anything changing about how my estate will be divided up?

No. Your assets will be distributed according to the statutory rules of succession. These reforms will not change that. If you are married and have biological or adopted children, the first step after your death will be a division of marital property, similar to a divorce settlement between living people. The estate calculated in this way is then split, with half going to your surviving spouse and half to your children in equal shares.


I already have a will. Do I need to do anything in light of the revision?

It is advisable to have any existing wills or inheritance contracts reviewed in light of the changes to succession law. This is especially relevant where existing statutory entitlements cease to apply – as with parents, for example – or where statutory entitlements can be reduced, in the case of descendants. This leaves a larger freely disposable share, meaning that you have a bigger say over where your estate goes.


What is changing for couples going through a divorce?

Until now, a spouse’s statutory succession rights or statutory entitlements have ceased to apply only once a divorce becomes final – irrespective of how long the couple has been separated. Now, this protection of the statutory entitlement for spouses can, under certain circumstances, be waived once divorce proceedings have been initiated. The legislators have now created the possibility of disinheritance, allowing the change in life circumstances to be taken into account from this stage in a couple’s divorce.


What do cohabiting partners need to know?

The revised law still does not provide for cohabiting partners. As such, they still have no statutory right of succession or other legal claim. As before, bequests to cohabiting partners must be made in a will or inheritance contract. You should also be aware of the tax position, which again is unaffected by the revision. Depending on the canton, an unmarried life partner can continue to face a large inheritance tax bill (at rates of up to 50%).


Good to know:

Succession arrangements through a will: A handwritten will – also known as a holographic will – is the most common form of will. It expresses the testator’s last will in their own writing. For a handwritten will to be valid, it must meet certain criteria. This includes bearing the exact date on which it was written and the testator’s signature, and specifying the word “Will” (“Testament” in German) in the title. The testator must also write the entire will by hand. An alternative is a public will. This is drawn up by a notary or public official in the presence of two witnesses, but in complete confidence. This means that the two witnesses – who must not be named in the will or related to the testator – attest solely that the testator is of sound mind. They do not know the contents of the will. Once the will has been created, it is stored with the relevant authority.


Good to know:

Succession arrangements through an inheritance contract: An inheritance contract is an alternative to a will. It enables you to decide on transferring assets to one or more heirs during your lifetime. It is a legally binding contract between you as the testator and at least one other party. In order to be valid, an inheritance contract must be notarised and signed in the presence of two witnesses. It differs from a will in that all parties know the contents of the contract and, therefore, what they will inherit. The consent of all parties is also needed to amend or annul an inheritance contract, which is not the case with a will.



To what extent will the revision benefit cohabiting couples?

The benefit of the revised law of succession for unmarried, childless cohabiting couples is that the testator’s surviving parents will no longer have a statutory entitlement. This means that someone who is cohabiting can leave their entire estate to their surviving partner.

Where a couple has one or more children together, or where the parent of one or more children from a previous relationship dies, the children’s statutory entitlement is reduced to half of the estate, meaning that the other half can be left to the surviving partner.


Does the revision of the law of succession affect my pension solutions?

Cohabiting couples should review any pension solutions taking the form purely of death benefits insurance in favour of the surviving partner. You might want to cancel these policies and instead put the premiums into your retirement provision. This might also make sense for married couples if, for example, death benefits insurance has been taken out expressly so that it pays out to the children you have together. The reduction in descendants’ statutory entitlements to half of the statutory succession rights can effectively reduce the sum insured under the death benefits policy by 25%.


The revision of the law of succession also brings the new prohibition on gifting into force. What exactly does this mean?

Where there is an inheritance contract, an effective ban on gifting will apply. This means that any gift must be explicitly added to the inheritance contract. Surviving children will be able to veto gifts by their deceased parent to charitable organisations or similar. This provision protects the heritable assets covered by the inheritance contract against unwanted erosion. An exception would now need to be added to the inheritance contract stating, for example, that lifetime gifts to charitable organisations are expressly allowed.


Does the revision of the law of succession affect me?

If you have not yet taken any action, this revision is a good opportunity to reflect on your situation and put in place succession arrangements that reflect your wishes. Does the revised law do what you had hoped and expected? Our experts are here to advise and work with you to optimise your pension solutions.


Have you already put a will and/or an inheritance contract in place? Then it would be wise to check whether your existing arrangements are compatible with the legal changes. Things to watch out for:

  • What provisions does your will contain in relation to any statutory entitlements?
  • Does your inheritance contract contain any provisions on lifetime gifts/assignment of assets?
  • How much flexibility do you want your will/inheritance contract to have?


Guido studied business economics and is a VBV-certified insurance specialist (Federal Diploma). He has been in the insurance industry for over 25 years and trains insurance experts in the Generali Academy. Guido has an Executive Master of Finance ZHAW and is also an EHB-certified teacher of economics and society (Federal Diploma) and a member of #TeamPensions.


Guido G. Studier, Training Expert at Generali