Comparison Of Inheritance Laws In Switzerland And Malaysia

The inheritance laws in Switzerland under the system of forced inheritance, prevalent among civil law jurisdictions in Europe takes away the testator’s wishes to bequeath to whom he or she wishes.  In contrast, Malaysia’s succession law hailing from the British system gives primacy to the testator’s intention to benefit whomever he or she wishes to benefit.

Forced Inheritance

In Switzerland, the testator’s spouse, registered partner, issue, and parents are provided for under the system of forced inheritance, and will be entitled to a guaranteed share of the estate. The testator cannot attempt to circumvent the system by way of a will, but the heirs may renounce their entitlement by signing an inheritance renunciation contract.

The Swiss Civil Code provides that children and spouses shall each receive half of the estate, which is known as the statutory share of the inheritance. However, the statutory share is not the obligatory share that the spouses and children must receive; the children are statutorily entitled to three-quarters of their statutory share of inheritance, whereas spouses or registered partners are statutorily entitled to half of their statutory share of inheritance. The parents of the testator shall only inherit half of their statutory share of inheritance if the testator died without issue.

Comparatively, in Malaysia, a testator is free to distribute his or her estate according to his or her desires, at will.  The will is a legal document recording the testator’s intention.  There is no restriction on who the testator wishes to benefit.  Spouses or immediate family members who logically are “heirs” can be written out of the will and any non-family member or friends can be written in as beneficiaries.


In Switzerland, the intestate estate will be distributed to the statutory heirs in the order laid down by law, namely the spouse or registered partner, together with the children. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents of the testator shall inherit the estate, and subsequently the grandparents of the testator.

In Malaysia, the intestate estate will be distributed according to the Distribution Act which apportioned the shares between the spouse and children. If there is no surviving spouse, or children then parents are next in line. 



  • How to draw up Wills to cover your Swiss or Malaysian assets
  • Creating Wills / Legal Instruments which are in compliance with local legislation
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About the author

Ms. Kim Khoo

P.J.K, C.L.P., LL.B (Hons) London
Principal Legal Consultant