Swiss marital property law governs how property is divided after marriage as well as how it is split after the death of a spouse. As such, it is fundamental to dealing with inheritances .
Switzerland currently applies three marital property regimes:
- ordinary marital property (participation in acquired property)
- Community of property
- Separation of property
Participation in acquired property
The participation in acquired property regime covers each spouse's own property and the property acquired by the spouses during their marriage. The distinction between the two types of assets is important when it comes to the dissolution of a marriage, either through divorce or the death of a spouse. A spouse's own property includes the assets they owned before getting married or received during the marriage as an inheritance or gift, as well as personal items such as clothing or everyday objects. Property acquired by the spouses during their marriage includes all other assets, such as income from gainful employment or investments that is not used to cover the daily costs of living. Income from managing the assets assigned to one spouse as their own property is deemed to have been acquired by both spouses during their marriage.
Community of property
For the community of property regime to apply, the spouses must have concluded a marriage contract. If the contract does not specify which assets are assigned to which spouse as their own property, the couple's assets as a whole are deemed to constitute joint property. On the death of one spouse, the surviving partner receives all of the joint property. In the event of a divorce, each spouse reclaims all assets considered their own property under the participation in acquired property regime. The remaining assets are divided equally.
Separation of property
As the name suggests, the only property recognised under this regime, which requires the conclusion of a marriage contract, is each spouse's own. This means that in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, either due to divorce or the death of a spouse, the whole of each spouse's own property is returned to them or to their heirs.
Surviving spouse as the primary beneficiary
Married couples can conclude a marriage contract that makes sure that the surviving spouse receives all property jointly acquired by the spouses during their marriage. If the contract states that neither partner brought any own property into the marriage, this ensures that, on the death of one spouse, the one surviving is awarded all property jointly acquired by the spouses, while the couple's children will inherit all remaining assets only after the death of the second parent.
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