By making a will, you can decide for yourself what should happen to your assets and at least partially change the distribution of your estate from what the law otherwise stipulates.
In particular, you have the following options:
You can stipulate that your assets be divided among your statutory heirs in a different way from that specified by the law.
You can leave your assets to other persons or institutions.
You can leave valuable items (e.g. jewellery, collections) or assets (sums of money, real estate) to specific persons or institutions.
You can specify certain conditions and obligations (for example, that an heir will receive a certain amount of money if they have graduated at the time of your death, or that the person who inherits your house must take care of your pet).
Seek advice from a professional to make sure that your estate will actually be distributed the way you really want it to be.
Make sure that your will is not the only source of instructions on your funeral arrangements, as it is sometimes the case that the will is not found and opened until after the funeral. It is better to tell those closest to you or your chosen undertaker what your wishes are in this regard.
A handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is the simplest way to arrange the distribution of your estate yourself, because this way you do not need to use a notary.
Write out your will entirely by hand; it must contain the following elements:
The heading «Will»
Your first name(s), surname, date of birth and, if applicable, place of origin.
Your wishes (see above: What do I want to include in my will?)
If you want to appoint an executor: the name of the person who will deal with the distribution of your estate and execute your will. This can be a person you trust (one of your heirs or another person), a lawyer or notary, or even a bank or accountancy firm. It can be helpful to appoint an executor in advance, as this can speed up the distribution of the estate and helps to avoid disputes about who gets what. Keep in mind, however, that the executor is entitled to a fee and this can be quite expensive, especially if the division of the estate is complex.
Place and date
Your signature at the end of the will
Amending a will
You can change your will at any time. An amendment must always be handwritten and be signed and dated. You can also revoke a will by destroying it or replacing it with another one. To avoid misunderstandings, you should expressly state in your new will that you have revoked all your previous wills.
A will by public deed is signed before a public official, usually a notary, and in the presence of two witnesses.
Generally, this form of will is chosen to ensure that it does not contain any errors and that it really does reflect the testator's wishes. It is worth seeking the advice of a professional, especially if the estate or its distribution is complex.
The public official that you consult will explain the procedure.
An oral will is only possible in exceptional circumstances, i.e. when it is not possible to draw up or sign the will in any other form. This is the case, for example, when the testator is facing imminent death.
You must state what your wishes are for your will in front of two witnesses. The witnesses must immediately write down what you said and add the place and date. They must also explain what the exceptional circumstances were. They must then sign the document and deliver it to the competent court.
By entering into a contract of succession, you can agree with other people on how your estate or part of it should be distributed.
In contrast to a will, which you can revoke or amend yourself at any time, a contract of succession can only be amended with the consent of all the parties who signed it.
In a contract of succession, you can regulate the following points in particular:
You agree with a statutory heir that they will renounce their inheritance. This may be appropriate, for example, if:
- one of your children waives their right to inherit because they have already received a substantial level of financial support from you; or
- you and your wife, husband or registered partner renounce each other's inheritance shares in order to leave everything to your children. Heirs who have renounced their inheritance in a contract of succession can no longer claim their statutory entitlement after your death.
You undertake to leave all or part of your estate to your legal heirs or to a third person. For example, you can provide in the contract of succession:
- that you undertake to leave the house that you live in with the family to one of your children; or
- that you and your wife, husband, or registered partner are the sole beneficiaries of each other's estate.
The following steps are required in order to draw up or amend a contract of succession:
Contact a notary. Swiss Notaries Association
The notary will draw up the contract of succession according to the wishes expressed jointly by you and the other persons who are parties to the contract and who will sign it.
The subsequent amendment of the contract is only possible with the consent of all contracting parties.
A gift allows you to transfer a portion of your assets and property to someone else during your lifetime. The person receiving the gift becomes the owner of the items concerned in all respects.
Certain gifts, particularly those made in the five years before your death, may be taken into account when your estate is distributed. Your statutory legal heirs can assert their related rights. For more information, it is best to contact a specialist.
You should keep a written record of any gifts that you make. This will help to avoid any disputes among your heirs after your death
Most cantons have an inheritance tax and a gift tax.
If you have questions about how to make a will or about what your rights and responsibilities are under the law of succession, it is best to consult a specialist, such as a lawyer or notary.