Transfer Of A Property In Switzerland On The Death Of The Owner Abroad

Publication Date01 October 2020
SubjectReal Estate and Construction, Family and Matrimonial, Real Estate, Wills/ Intestacy/ Estate Planning
Law FirmCharles Russell Speechlys LLP
AuthorChristophe Levet

Following the article on what happens with a property in Switzerland on the death of its owner in the UK, this article discusses the concrete steps to be taken abroad and in Switzerland in order to enable the heirs to whom the property in Switzerland is vested to have it transferred in their favour, respectively to sell it. We will focus in particular on cases of inheritances opened in England, Germany and France.

Inheritance opened in England

Under English law, the heirs do not receive the estate directly from the deceased - in contrast to Switzerland where the deceased's property passes to the heirs upon death - but from an intermediary beneficiary, the personal representative (called executor if appointed in testamentary dispositions or administrator if appointed by an English authority).

The personal representative must manage the assets composing the estate and pay the debts due under English law before transferring the estate to the heirs.

The documents to be collected for the transfer of the property located in Switzerland are a grant of probate or letters of administration duly apostilled, the testamentary provisions giving the personal representative the power to act, and an affidavit from an English notary on which the names of the executors and their powers under English law appear. These documents must be translated by a sworn translator into the official language of the place where the property is located in Switzerland.

The issue of the devolution of real estate located in Switzerland to a trust is not addressed here and will be addressed in a future note.

Inheritance opened in Germany

The certificate of inheritance under German law can be regarded as a certificate of inheritance within the meaning of article 559 of the Swiss Civil Code and thus be recognised for the purposes of the land register in Switzerland.

A European Certificate of Inheritance, issued by a German authority and drawn up in accordance with the EU Succession Regulation, is also accepted by the land registers in Switzerland.

In Germany, the certificate of inheritance is issued by the inheritance court of the deceased's last domicile at a cost set in proportion to the value of the estate. As an example, the cost of the certificate will be approximately CHF 4,000 for an estate estimated at CHF 1 million and more than CHF 25,000 for an estate estimated at CHF 10 million. Obtaining a certificate of inheritance can therefore be complicated not only by the requirement to...

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