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Why You Should Never Use a Sample Will

These days, you can find sample forms for everything, even wills. However, these generally assume a simple starting point that does not reflect the situation of many testators. What's more, wills are just part of the estate planning process. Pension entitlements and insurance benefits, along with lifetime endowments and – for married couples – marital property law should be part of the planning.

Here are four reasons why you should not use a sample form for your will:

  1. Every situation is unique.
    Every family's circumstances are as individual as the family members themselves. It is the starting point for estate planning. Patchwork families, for example, require special attention, because the legal rules of succession may not be the same as the testator's wishes.
  2. All assets have an individual composition.
    The more complex the financial circumstances, the more challenging the estate planning. After all, real estate, company holdings, securities investments, pension entitlements, and insurance benefits must be tailored to each specific case.
  3. A will requires a certain written form.
    It must be personally written by hand – including date and signature. Public deeds are an option for those who do not want to, or are unable to, write their will by hand. The public official (the notary in most cantons) prepares the will, which just requires a signature after that. In this case, two witnesses are required, but they are not given any information about the content of the will. There is no legal provision about where the will must be kept. However, it is important to make sure that following the testator's death, the will is quickly given to the responsible authority for opening.
  4. Inheritance law prescribes compulsory portions.
    Not all testators can dispose freely of their estates. The parents, spouse, and descendants are entitled to a portion and by law, they can waive this portion only with an inheritance contract.

Inheritance Planning – Better Not to Wait until Later

These are just some of the reasons why it is makes sense to start estate planning as soon as possible. In general, whenever there are life changes such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child, divorce, a civil partnership, the purchase of property, or professional reorientation, it is wise to review your estate planning and adjust it to the new situation and/or needs.

The advantage of early estate planning is that your family can give input. Depending on the needs of those involved, it may be useful to pass on assets to your descendants in the form of endowments or advancements. Particularly in challenging situations, many aspects can be clarified now in order to have a solid foundation for equitable division of the estate.

Careful estate planning allows for greater flexibility in a legal context as well. It may be possible to optimize your inheritance and gift taxes.