The ongoing reform of the Swiss inheritance law

The main principle inspiring such reform is the increase of the freedom of disposition of the de cuius. To that purpose, the Swiss legislator focused on the reduction of the "statutory portion", i.e. the portion of the estate which is mandatorily reserved to some particular inheritors. The modification of such legal provisions constitutes the "first step" of the reform of Swiss inheritance law. This part of the reform is about to be concluded, while the "second step" – aimed at the modification of specific provisions of SCC regarding, among other things, the succession of family enterprises –  has still to be implemented.

Focusing on the said "first step", it must be noticed that the Swiss Parliament accepted the proposed modifications to the SCC during the parliamentary session of Winter 2020. After the expiration of the deadline to call a referendum in April 2021, in May 2021 the Federal Council decided that the reform will enter into force on January 1st, 2023. The new legal provisions will be applicable to all successions opened after such date, irrespective of the prior execution of a will or of an inheritance agreement. Therefore, it is important to coordinate any succession planning with the new provisions.

The old provisions of SCC (currently into force) substantially limit the freedom of disposition of the de cuius; in particular, this is an effect of the said provisions regarding the "statutory portions". The law (art. 470 and ff., SCC) provides that a portion of the estate is reserved to some inheritors, namely the descendants, the parents and the spouse/registered partner of the de cuius. The "statutory portion" is thus the part of the estate that cannot be disposed through a will. By contrast, the "disposable portion" is the part of the estate which can be freely disposed of through a will without restrictions.

The reform approved by the Swiss Parliament provides, on the one hand, the abolition of the statutory portion reserved to the parents (through the modification of art. 470 SCC). On the other hand, the reform entails a reduction of the statutory portion reserved to the descendants (through the modification of art. 471 SCC) from 37.5% to 25% if jointly to the spouse, and from 75% to 50% if there is no spouse. No variation occurs to the statutory portion reserved to the surviving spouse/registered partner of the de cuius.

The main effect of the above-mentioned reform is the increase of the freedom of disposition of the de cuius, who will be entitled to dispose of a larger part of his/her estate for the benefit of other persons, e.g. his/her partner (not registered) or/and the children of this latter.

The following table resumes the variation of the statutory and disposable portion (excluding the statutory portion of the parents, which will be abolished), as provided by the new legal provisions.

Our professionals will be glad to assist you in cases of Swiss or international successions to evaluate whether and how the new provisions can be applicable, also in the light of the international private law.