Through an inheritance, the testator bequeaths a percentage of his or her assets AND debts to the community of heirs.
"Hans receives 20% of the disposable part."
"I name Peter .... as my sole heir."
Through a legacy, the beneficiary does not become part of the community of heirs, but receives a fixed sum or certain material assets.
"I bequeath my watch to ..."
"I bequeath a legacy of
CHF 10'000 to ..."
A gift is any inter vivos disposition in which a person uses his or her assets to enrich another without receiving an equivalent consideration.
"... Max gives Kurt his collection of postage stamps."
When a person dies, he or she leaves assets (collectively also called "estate") behind. Such an inheritance can be received as a statutory or named heir. Statutory heirs are e.g. the children or the testator's spouse. Named heirs are determined by the testator in his or her will or in a contract of succession. All heirs become part of the community of heirs and thereby acquire rights and obligations. An heir is entitled to a certain part of the estate, depending on how many other heirs the latter has to be shared with. However, heirs also become responsible for the debts left by the testator.
In the case of a legacy, the legatee does not become part of the community of heirs. The legatee has the right to recover possession towards the community of heirs for a specific object (e.g. a painting) or a specific sum (e.g. CHF 10,000). A legatee does not become responsible for the debts left by the testator.
In the case of a gift, the donor donates the donee a thing or a sum during his or her lifetime. Usually, a contract of donation is concluded for this purpose, within which the contracting parties are named. A gift (unlike an inheritance) does not grant the donee the legal status of an heir.
What is the difference between a legacy and a provision governing the division of property?
What is the difference between heirs and legatees (in the case of an inheritance or legacy)?
What part of the estate can I freely dispose of?
What is better suited for a donation to an aid organisation (inheritance or legacy)?
How can I name an heir or bequeath a legacy to a beneficiary?
How do I prevent my father from giving away all his wealth during his lifetime?