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Advokaturbüro, Rechtsanwalt, LL.M.
Kategorie: Schweizer Recht
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Erfahrung:  Gebiete des Schweizer Zivilrechts, v.a. allgemeines und besonderes Vertragsrecht, Erbrecht, Gesellschaftsrecht, SchKG
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Inheritance law in Switzerland.


I need advice on inheritance law in Switzerland. I am a Swiss citizen living in Scotland. I have lived here for about ten years. I also have Italian citizenship.  My questions relate to my potential inheritance from my mother. My mother  is Italian. She married my father, a Swiss citizen, about 55 years ago.  I was born in 1962 and my father died in 1966. My mother has Swiss citizenship only through my father. Until recently my mother lived in Scotland. She bought a house in Lugano last year and moved there. She, as far as I am aware, has sold everything in Scotland and moved her whole life to Switzerland. My mother has no other children. My  younger brother died also in 1966. I have three children by marriage to my Italian husband. We are separated, not divorced. He does not have Swiss citizenship. My children are also Swiss citizens. I have a fourth child with my current long term partner. This child (nine years old ) is  also a Swiss citizen. My partner is a UK national. I have no contact with my mother. She refuses to answer e-mails or telephone calls or reply to letters. She does talk to my two oldest children who are 23 and 22 years old. My mother has acknowledged in writing, not notarised, that under Swiss law I am her sole heir. I believe that under the law I will be entitled to 75% of her estate and possibly even  75% of bequests in the 5 years leading up to death. My mother is 75 years old and suffers from severe emphysema. She has also had part of her colon removed.  I have been told by my oldest son that my mother intends to disinherit me which contradicts the written statement I referred to earlier. Under the law she apparently cannot do this legally but she could find  various ways around the law. The situation has become more complicated by the fact of her close relationship with my cousin, my father's sister's daughter, who lives in California but is also a Swiss citizen. My cousin is apparently advising my mother and has recently broken off all contact with me refusing to answer e-mails. According to my oldest daughter my cousin has access to my mother's email account and has been managing my mother's finances. I asked my cousin if this were true but she refused to answer. I am a little suspicious. I do not know what my mother's estate is worth but  it could be as much as 10 million euros. Perhaps more. She recently sold her substantial shareholdings in the Italian family business for cash. The company is one of the largest private companies in Italy. I suspect that some of the financial transaction  would have been declared in Italy and some would have occurred in Switzerland and not been declared. I have no evidence. My mother has always behaved very strangely towards me since my farther's death in 1966. She was always abusive and neglectful as a parent. I can back this up with some evidence. To some extent I was crippled by this abuse and neglect. The  Swiss government took some interest in my welfare, when I was living in Kenya as a child with my mother after my father died, ensuring that my mother fulfilled her obligations as a parent of a Swiss citizen until I reached the age of majority. I have never received any money from my mother. My mother bought a flat (£600,000+cash ) in the Barbican in London for my oldest son about three years ago and is always promising my daughter money. My daughter has so far refused to receive anything from her. I have good relationships with my two oldest children who keep me informed of my mother's health and well being. I have a detailed file of al my attempts over the past years to reconcile with my mother including all of her replies. But as I said, when she moved to Switzerland she refused to have any more contact with me. I wrote to her last October offering to settle with her ie to voluntary give up a part of my legal entitlement to her eventual estate in return for part settlement now. She did not reply. My questions are:

What are my relevant rights under Swiss law?


Should I choose to engage a lawyer in Switzerland to represent my interests will I be able to claim some form of  assistance with the fees. I am not financially in a position  to pay a lawyer from my own resources. I could of course pay legal fees from the eventual inheritance which, as I explained, could be substantial.


Further, is there a way that the Swiss state could represent my interests especially in the light of the past abuse? I need to say that my mother is very agressive in her  business dealings and is extraordinarily intransigent.


Any light you could shed on this matter would be most welcome.

Gepostet: vor 4 Jahren.
Kategorie: Schweizer Recht
Experte:  daniela-mod hat geantwortet vor 4 Jahren.

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Experte:  Advokaturbüro hat geantwortet vor 4 Jahren.
Dear JustAnswer-User

Your case is too complicated and too concreet to answer completely here in this forum complet. This forum can only be used for give you generel advice.

As I understood you description your mother has Swiss citizenship as well as the Italian citizenship.

As long your mother lives in Switzerland, Swiss law is applicable on her inheritance in Sitzerland in general. As she is also Italian and as she seems to have assets abroad, it's possible that on these assets abroad Swiss law will not be applicable. This question is suppodes to be checked, when your mother dies.

In general it can be, that your mothers death leads to a so-called "inheritance-separation". This means, that a part of the inheritance might be shared acoording to Italian or Scottisch law resp. that Swiss authorities are not competent to decide about these abroad assets.

Please note, that - under certain conditions - your mother is allowed according do international inheritance law, to decide according to which (national) law statute she wants her inheritance to be shared. This choice of the inheritance statute principally must be done in a inheritance contract, certificated by a notary.

In the following I assume, that there is (still) no (valid) inheritance contract and only Swiss inheritance law will be applicable, when your mother dies in Switzerland.

As the only daughter you are the only heir, and will get the whole inheritance alone (100 %), according to the Swiss legal order of succesion. As a direct descendet of you mother you are protected by the "Pflichtteil" (statutory share, legal portion). This "Plfichtteil" must be at least 75% of the whole inheritance.

According to art. 277 ZGB (Zivilgesetzbuch) your mother can disinherit you under certain conditions. The disinheritance can be done as well in a hand written testament (without notary), but there must be a very important reason, for the disinheritance is valid. So a disinheritance can be successfully appealed, if the reason is not specified in the testament or the reason it not heavy enough. A disinheritance is only allowed, when you tried to kill your mother or when you neglected your familiar duties in a very heavy way. Lack of contact is not enough for a disinheritance.
According to your description I can not see, why a disinheritance should be allowed.

So you should get at least 75% of the inheritance of your mother when she dies.

As long as your mother is still alive, she is allowed to do with her assets what ever she wants. She even can give all her money to anybody else (cousin, charity organisation a.s.o) as a present. You can not prevent this. But:

When your mother dies and she gave away "your" inheritance during her lifetime - i.e. for avoiding on purpose that you get your legal portion - , you have a few legal means, to appeal such deals (gift, acts of sale under value a.s.o.) after her death. When your mother gives all her money to a cousin during her lifetime, you can ask him, to pay you the money back, at least your legal portion of 75%. Such a claim against recipients of "your" inheritance are only possible, after your mothers death.

Please note, that you even have no right, to controll, what your mother does with her money, as long as she lives. Your (inheritance) rights only arise with her death.

I hope, I was able to help you with that answer. Please dont forget to accept my answer by clicking on one of the smileys below.

Kind regards

lic. iur. Reto Aschwanden, LL.M.
attorney at law