Family Revised inheritance law: more freedom in 2023

Compulsory shares will be reduced starting in 2023. The new inheritance law gives you more options for succession planning.

06 Apr 2022
Image: UBS

The facts at a glance

  • The compulsory share for direct descendants will be reduced to 50%
  • The compulsory share for parents will be abolished entirely
  • Married couples in ongoing divorce proceedings can disinherit each other before the final decree
  • Cohabiting partners are still not covered by the statutory right to intestate succession
  • Pillar 3a savings are not counted as part of the estate
  • A periodic review of your will is worthwhile

At the end of 2020, the Swiss Parliament adopted the revision of the nation’s more than 100-year-old inheritance law. The new law will become effective on 1 January 2023, granting you as a testator the right to freely dispose over a larger share of your estate. You can already anticipate the new regulations in your will for the time when the revision becomes effective.

Reduced compulsory share

If you have not drawn up a will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws governing intestate succession. This will not change with the revision. If you are married and have children, the first thing completed after your death is the division of matrimonial property; subsequently, one half of the claim to the deceased person’s matrimonial property goes to the surviving spouse and the other to the children.

If you leave a will, the situation looks different: The legal heirs’ compulsory share (currently three-quarters of the statutory share) will be reduced by half, corresponding to one-quarter of the total estate. The compulsory share of the surviving spouse or registered partner remains unchanged at half the statutory share, i.e., one-quarter of the total estate. This means that you will be able to freely distribute half of your estate – until now, only three-eighths was yours to dispose of as you chose.

What will not change

Shares based on statutory succession (without a will)

  • 0%

    Spouse

  • 0%

    Legal Heirs

What will change from 2023

Compulsory shares (with a will)

  • 0%

    Spouse’s compulsory share

  • 0%

    Freely disposable

  • 0%

    Legal heirs' compulsory share

No compulsory share for parents

The compulsory share for parents, currently still valid, will be completely abolished in 2023. Should both your life partner and your parents survive you, you can now leave your entire inheritance to the former. This applies to marriages, registered partnerships and cohabiting partners.

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A change for married couples going through divorce

Another important change concerns married couples going through divorce: Currently, a spouse’s claim to inheritance and a compulsory share is only void with the final decree of divorce. From 1 January 2023, however, the protected right to a compulsory share will be lifted as soon as divorce proceedings are initiated. A simple will is now all that is needed to fully disinherit a spouse in a divorce.

Cohabiting partners will still not be covered by inheritance law

The situation of cohabiting partners will not change under the revised inheritance law. They still have no statutory right to inherit from their partners. Any preferential treatment of cohabiting partners must continue to be regulated in wills or contracts. The tax situation has also not changed: depending on the canton, any inheritance a cohabiting partner receives will still be subject to inheritance taxes of up to 50%.

Clarity on pillar 3a

It was already well established in law that pension assets in a pillar 3a insurance institution are not included in the estate. But the law now explicitly states that all pillar 3a pension assets held in insurance policies and bank foundations will be treated equally and not as part of the estate. Orders of beneficiaries will be governed by the relevant social security law. However, claims from pillar 3a related to redemption value will be added to the base used to calculate the compulsory share. Ideally, you should indicate in your will the order of beneficiaries that you have deposited with the pension fund.

You should address this topic early on. On the following page you will find a form for arranging an order of beneficiaries in addition to other helpful documents.

The payout of pension assets in the event of death is taxed separately from other income and at a reduced rate. Unlike inheritance taxes, the degree of kinship does not play a role here. For cohabiting partners, depending on the canton, the taxes on 3a assets of CHF 100,000. for example, may well be lower than on inherited assets of the same amount.

Now is the time to revisit your will

If you have already drawn up a will, we advise you to review it with an eye to the new inheritance law. In light of the greater freedom you will have over your estate, would you change anything about how you distribute it? Are the existing dispositions with regard to the compulsory shares still clearly formulated under the new inheritance law? Do you need to make any amendments in case of divorce proceedings?

You can already replace your previous will by drawing up a new one that takes into account both current and new inheritance law. You do not have to wait until 1 January 2023 to review, revise or even draw up a first will.

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