Legacy – an alternative to status as heir

Through a legacy, a person receives a certain asset without receiving an inheritance position. Since other rights and obligations exist in contrast to inheritance, delimitation is important.

What is a legacy?

With a legacy, all monetary or material assets can be transferred from one person to another upon death. This can be, for example, a certain amount of money, a piece of jewellery or a property. If, on the other hand, a fixed percentage share of the inheritance is awarded, one assumes an inheritance position. The legatee has a claim for restitution against the community of heirs. This means that the legatee has a right to have the heirs hand over the object of the bequest to him. He can enforce this right in court if the heirs refuse to do so.

Since the obligations of the legal heirs may not be violated, these must also always be taken into account and observed in the case of a legacy.

Legacy or inheritance: What is the difference?

In a will or a contract of inheritance, a person can specify what is to happen to his or her assets after death. Whether it refers to a legacy or inheritance makes a considerable difference.

An heir is a member of the community of heirs. He thus receives a certain part of the inheritance and in return is also liable for the debts of the deceased (see on this: ‘Help, I’m inheriting debts!’ – excluding the inheritance). In contrast, a legatee acquires the right to the surrender of an individual asset without participating in the community of heirs and the coverage of debts. Conversely, a legatee does not have the same right to information as an heir. In addition, the combination of both institutes is possible. Thus, in addition to his or her inheritance quota, an heir can also be favoured with a legacy. It is important here to always refer to the legacy as such.

When does a legacy make sense?

A legacy is particularly useful if persons who are not entitled to inherit are to receive a benefit. Beneficiaries can thus be related persons, companies or also non-profit organisations. Since in almost all cantons non-profit organisations are exempt from inheritance tax, they can fully benefit from the bequest (see: Consideration of a non-profit organisation). The NGOs then receive this donation upon death and do not have to worry about the rest of the inheritance and the associated obligations.

This is what you should consider

  • Consider to whom you want to leave a legacy without appointing the person as heir. Are there specific charitable organisations that you would like to support with your estate? Here you can find trustworthy organisations.
  • Make sure that the bequest is identifiable in your testamentary disposition and that you designate it clearly.
  • Explain to your heirs and descendants that you wish to leave a legacy to an NGO. These people will then be more likely to accept this legacy. Read our blog article on this subject.
  • Visit our download center to find templates for inheritance contracts and wills.

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