05 July 2022

Swiss Inheritance Law and Trusts: the Trustee's Perspective

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  • Legal
  • Inheritance / Succession

What do (foreign) trustees have to bear in mind when encountering Swiss inheritance law?

Trusts as classic common law institutions have been recognized in Switzerland under the Hague Trust Convention (HTC) since 2007. Since then, trusts have become much more important in Switzerland. The trust is an established, versatile, and flexible instrument that is often used in connection with estate planning and asset protection.

Swiss law does not know an own trust institute, although a Swiss trust may be implemented in due course [cf. "Introduction of a Swiss Trust". However, Swiss law knows statutory provisions on inheritance law which are not superseded by the HTC but may be relevant for the trustees.

Trustees who encounter Swiss inheritance law are regularly confronted with questions such as:

  • Can (foreign) trustees be appointed to be heirs and/or legatees under Swiss inheritance law? If so, what are their rights and obligations?
  • Is Swiss law on forced heirship to be considered even though the trust law does not recognize any rights to compulsory shares?
  • Can heirs of an estate subject to Swiss inheritance law request information from the trustee and, if necessary, successfully enforce it in court?
  • Can heirs of an estate subject to Swiss inheritance law claim a reduction of the settlor's asset allocations to the trust or trustee against the trustee and/or the beneficiaries? If so, under what conditions and prerequisites? Is such a decision of a Swiss court enforceable against the trustee and/or the beneficiaries in the foreign state of the trust’s domicile or state of residence of the trustee and/or the beneficiaries?

MME's inheritance law team gladly advises you as trustee on these and other questions as well as on matrimonial property law, tax law, and financial market law implications in the trust area. We may draw your attention to any pitfalls and provide you with possible solutions. We look forward to hearing from you.