Financial planning

New inheritance law: what's changing in 2023

Published on February 14, 2023Reading time 4 min.
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Swiss inheritance law came into force over a century ago and, despite a number of changes, is out of step with today's living conditions and family models. That's why the Federal Council has been asked to review inheritance law and make it more flexible. What will change from 1 January 2023?

Inheritance law has been revised

The purpose of inheritance law is to organise the distribution of a person's assets on death. Descendants, parents, spouses and registered partners are reserved heirs and are therefore entitled to a share of the estate, whatever the wishes of the deceased.

Before the reform and its entry into force on 1 January 2023, a significant proportion of the inheritance went to the deceased's family, because the law prescribed substantial hereditary reserves. A number of changes have been made to this law to bring it more into line with current living conditions and family models.

The reform of inheritance law is twofold:

  • changes to the circle of heirs with right of retention and the amount of the right of retention
  • transferring a business by inheritance

The first part, approved by the Federal Assembly, came into force on 1 January 2023. The second part was the subject of a preliminary draft submitted by the Federal Council for consultation in 2019. A draft bill will be submitted to Parliament at a later stage.

Changes to the circle of reserved heirs and the amount of their reserves

The reform gives testators greater freedom to decide how to dispose of their assets.

From 1 January 2023, descendants and spouses or registered partners will retain the status of reserved heirs; they are still entitled to a minimum share of the estate set by law and, as such, cannot be disinherited (except in special cases). Parents, on the other hand, remain legal heirs (in the absence of posterity of the deceased) but are deprived of their reserve.

Article 471 of the Civil Code dealing with reserves has been revised as follows. The fraction indicated applies to the inheritance tax of each heir:

Reserved portions before the reformReserve shares following the reform
Father, mother1/20
Spouse or registered partner1/21/2

Example 1

A married couple with two children. On the death of the husband, the estate amounts to CHF 100,000.

Legal inheritanceReserved portions before reformAvailable portion before reformReserve portions after reformQuota available after reform
WifeCHF 50,000CHF 25'000CHF 25'000CHF 25'000CHF 25'000
ChildCHF 50'000CHF 37,500CHF 12,500CHF 25'000CHF 25'000
TotalCHF 100'000CHF 62'500CHF 37'500CHF 50'000CHF 50'000

As from 1 January 2023, Mr. Klaus can freely distribute CHF 50,000 instead of the current CHF 37,500.

Example 2

A married couple with no children. The husband's parents are alive at the time of his death and the total estate amounts to CHF 100,000.

Legal inheritanceReserved portions before reformAvailable portion before reformReserve portions after reformQuota available after reform
WifeCHF 75,000CHF 37'500CHF 37'500CHF 37,500CHF 37'500
ParentsCHF 25'000CHF 12,500CHF 12,500CHF 0CHF 25'000
TotalCHF 100'000CHF 50'000CHF 50'000CHF 37'500CHF 62'500

As a result of the reform, he can freely distribute CHF 62,500 instead of the current CHF 50,000.

This means that all the heirs with reserve rights have a single reserve of 1/2 and the testator can pass on the remainder of his estate by disposition.

Tax consequences: variations according to relationship

Beware, however, of the tax consequences depending on the relationship to the deceased.

By way of example, here is the tax treatment applicable to an inheritance of CHF 300,000, depending on the degree of kinship and the canton of residence of the deceased.

SpouseChildrenParentsCohabiting partnerNo family relationship
Basel City0%0%7%10.4%31.3%
Basel Countryside0%0%0%13.5%29%

Our Financial Planning department will be happy to answer any questions you may have on the subject of this article.