Parents and their children can have different ideas about how the family's assets should be passed on. Decisions made by one party do not take everyone's wishes into account. As well as legal requirements and financial conditions, emotional aspects also play an important role.

In principle, advancements on succession are regulated by law. The value of an amount paid in cash remains the same over time. But what happens to a property later in terms of inheritance if ownership was transferred to the heirs in advance? And what does the law have to say about financing courses of study of different durations and costs? What should you bear in mind if you decide to give your stepchildren preferential treatment? How should assets be invested so that advancements can be balanced out in the event of death? 

I'd like to give my son from my first marriage a plot of land as an advancement, and leave my daughter the equivalent value in cash. My two stepchildren should be treated the same way as my biological children after my death.

Anne Z.

In principle, advancements are deducted from the heir's subsequent share of the inheritance. A million francs in cash remains a million francs. However, when it comes to valuating property, the rules are slightly different: the market value on the date of the death of the bequeathing party is taken as the basis for calculation; as a result, the legal share of the inheritance due to certain heirs may not be respected. Money spent on children's education is not generally regarded as an advancement provided that it does not exceed the usual limits. Stepchildren are not normally entitled to inherit, and receive nothing.

Anne Z. has several options if she writes a will. She can, for instance, specify that the plot of land she wants to give her son should not be valued at market value. She could also indicate that the cost of each child's education should be factored into the inheritance. And she can add clauses in favor of her stepchildren. She must be careful to observe the minimum legal share of the inheritance due to her children from her first marriage.

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Did you know that ...

  • ... by drawing up an inheritance contract you can specify the accepted value of real estate property to be taken as the basis for calculating shares between heirs?
  • … it is vital to update succession arrangements if your family situation changes?
  • … unclear advancements not set out in writing often lead to disputes and family rifts?
  • … in many cantons, stepchildren are liable to inheritance tax?
  • … nursing costs, ties to real estate or the difficulty of discussing death are often not given sufficient consideration in succession planning?

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