Article by Tina Wüstemann, Daniel Bader and Filippo Noseda

Swiss-UK estates are often fraught with complexities as a result of structural differences between the inheritance, tax and matrimonial property laws of the two countries. While Swiss private international law follows the principle of unity of succession, in England and Wales there are different rules for movables and immovables (schismatic system). The Swiss principle of universality of succession differs substantially from English law where the deceased's personal representative becomes the legal owner of the estate. Furthermore, the beneficiaries of an English estate are not personally liable for any estate liabilities, as the personal representative is tasked with settling any such debts before distributing the net estate to the beneficiaries. Under Swiss law, the connecting factor for determining jurisdiction and the applicable law of an international estate is the last domicile (Wohnsitz) of the deceased. The term domicile is interpreted and applied differently under English law, which in an international context may lead to misunderstandings and even conflicts. In practice, in the case of British nationals living in Switzerland conflicts may be minimised by including a choice of law in the testator's will. Better still is to engage in careful lifetime planning, so as to pre-empt and actively manage any conflicts and achieve a harmonious result whenever possible.

Originally published by Successio - Journal Of Inheritance.

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