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Estate Planning


Estate planning means taking the steps required to pass the assets of the deceased according to the preference of the deceased and suited to the interests of the people involved, and as tax-efficient as possible.  The tools involved in estate planning include the will, various types of trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of appointment, various forms of property ownership (exclusive property, joint tenancy with rights of survivorship), gifting, and powers of attorney, specifically the durable financial power of attorney and the durable medical power of attorney (which is also commonly known as a living will).


Under Swiss law, there are different forms to create a will:


A handwritten will is a will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. This sort of will need not be signed by witnesses attesting to the validity of the testator's signature and intent.

Any person over the age of 18 can draft his own will without the aid of an attorney. The will usually contains the following:

  • The testator must clearly identify himself as the maker of the will, and that a will is being made; this is commonly called "publication" of the will, and is typically satisfied by the words "last will and testament" on the face of the document.
  • The testator should declare that he revokes all previously-made wills and codicils. Otherwise, a subsequently-made will revokes earlier wills and codicils only to the extent that they are inconsistent. However, if a subsequent will is completely inconsistent with an earlier one, that earlier will be considered completely revoked by implication.
  • The testator should demonstrate that he has the capacity to dispose of his property, and does so freely and willingly.
  • The testator must sign and date the will.
  • The testator's signature must be placed at the end of the will. If this is not observed, any text following the signature will be ignored.


A notarized will is a will drafted by a notary public, signed by two witnesses and notarized by the notary public. A notary public is an officer who can administer  statutory declarations, witness and authenticate documents and perform certain other acts. The role undertaken by notaries in civil law countries such as Switzerland is much greater than in common law countries. Notaries in the former countries frequently undertake work done in common law countries by the Titles Office and other Government agencies. The qualifications imposed by some countries is much greater.