The key points of creating your personal will

Creating your personal will. The most important points.

A will is an essential tool for estate planning. It allows you to deviate from the legal regulations and stipulate your wishes for allocating your assets. This article will explain how to create a will, what it can include, and what requirements must be met.

When do you need a will?

When someone dies, the law governs who will inherit the estate and how it will be divided up. Without any stipulations to the contrary, the spouse or registered partner and the children will each get one-half of the estate, for example. If you wish to deviate from this legal regulation, a will must be drawn up. This will allow you to allocate your assets more freely, but your stipulations must remain within the legal framework. This means that the "compulsory portions" must still be granted. For married persons, the marital property law must also be observed. This law determines the size of the estate before the estate is divided up.

However, a will covers much more than the portions of the estate to be allocated. Testators can also stipulate legacies, define usufructs, instructions for dividing the estate, the amounts to be taken into consideration, and compensation requirements in writing. 

The many advantages of writing a will

Numerous situations must be specified in the will, such as any foreseeable inheritance disputes. A will can prevent this by specifying who will receive which assets from the estate. Appointing an executor is another way to prevent disputes among heirs. This person is in charge of representing the testator when settling the estate and administering the estate until it has been divided up. They prepare the division of the estate and assist in reaching a compromise in the event of disputes.

Particularly for partnerships without marriage, it is important to prepare a will: Unlike married couples, cohabiting partners cannot be part of the devolution of the estate without a will. This means that a will is required if the partner is to be considered in the estate. 

Should you create a holographic will or a will by public deed?

Switzerland permits two types of wills: holographic and those handled by public deed.

A holographic will must be written manually on paper by the testator and must include the date and their signature. Computer-generated documents are not valid.

Benefit: A holographic will can be created, amended at any time, or withdrawn without a notary.

Disadvantages: For complex estate matters, wills may be lengthy and require a great deal of effort to write by hand.

A will by public deed is created by a notary or another public official, and also involves two independent witnesses. The testator needs only to sign. If they are no longer able to sign, the will can be read aloud.

Advantages: This type of will is drawn up by an expert, which means there are not likely to be issues with formalities or content. For lengthier wills, a will by public deed is more convenient for the testator. It is also recommended if there are concerns that the legal heirs may dispute the testator's ability to make rational judgments later on.

Disadvantages: This form involves more work for the testator when creating a new will or amending an existing one, and the administrative effort and costs are higher as well.

Regardless of what type of will is chosen, professional consultations are recommended. This ensures that the content of the will also correspond to what the testator intends for the estate. 

Why you should avoid using a template for your will

Numerous templates for wills can be found online, but it is not advisable to use these. There are many reasons:

  1. Each situation is unique. Just as no two family members are the same, no two family situations are the same either. This must be kept in mind for estate planning. Blended families, for instance, require special attention, because the legal succession generally does not correspond to the wishes of the testator.
  2. All assets are unique in composition. The more complex the asset situation is, the more challenging it can be to plan the estate. Aspects such as real estate, company holdings, securities investments, pension entitlements, and insurance benefits must be tailored to each specific case.
  3. The content of the template may not be correct Only a professional advisor can ensure that the testator's individual needs are realized and stipulated. The content of a template is merely a suggestion and may not be accurate, and the necessary wording may not be taken into account. 

Estate planning: marital property law and inheritance law in brief

This video provides a simple explanation of the statutory regulation of Swiss marital property and inheritance law, and why a will can be important.

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Keeping your will safe

You should store your will in an envelope in a safe place so that it can be submitted to the proper office after your death. Every canton has a designated storage location, such as with a notary, the local court, or the municipality. If you keep it at home, make sure that it is easy to find and will not be destroyed. Of course, you could also give it to a trusted individual for safekeeping.
Regardless of where you choose to store your will, you should make sure that your loved ones know where to find it. Instructions upon death (can be filled out online).

The will can be amended at any time and as often as you wish. If you wish to cancel the previous will, destroy it and replace it with the new one. Note: If the new will can be understood to be complementary to the previous will, both wills shall remain in effect. All wills must be submitted to the authority, even if some are clearly void

There is no legal requirement for where to store your will. However, it is important to make sure that following the testator's death, the will is quickly given to the responsible authority for opening.

Revise your will regularly

Every change in your professional or private life can influence estate planning. It's therefore advisable to review the existing arrangements and, where necessary, modify them following important events. These events can include, for instance, marriage, additions to the family, divorce, the purchase of land, professional reorientation, or changes in the law.

The more complicated the family and wealth situations are, the more important it is for you to plan your estate as soon as possible and consult an expert. They can provide you with professional advice and support. This can be a lawyer, a notary, an accountant, or experts from Credit Suisse.


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