Succession

Estate constitution

What property constitutes an individual’s estate for succession purposes?

All assets, movable and immovable, regardless of their location, as well as rights and duties fall into an individual’s estate. Liechtenstein is aware of the concept of co-ownership (or joint ownership). Collective ownership plays a role in the succession procedure. As a result, heirs can only inherit the respective part of a jointly owned asset that belonged to the deceased.

Disposition

To what extent do individuals have freedom of disposition over their estate during their lifetime?

Persons of full legal capacity have the right of disposition over their whole estate in accordance with general applicable rules. Therefore, individuals can usually dispose freely of their estate during their lifetime without restrictions. Under certain circumstances, donations or gifts before the testator’s death can be credited as a portion of the inheritance can be credited on the portion of the inheritance; however, this does not affect the actual disposition. Marriage alone does not constitute joint property between spouses. Therefore, spouses can establish a general community of property; however, this requires a special contract. Further, spouses may enter into an inheritance contract.

To what extent do individuals have freedom of disposition over their estate on death?

In general, individuals have freedom of disposition over their estate upon death. Nonetheless, there are ‘mandatory heirs’. For instance, children and the spouse of the deceased are protected and are entitled to a compulsory portion. Depending on the specific circumstances among these persons, the compulsory portion varies.

Liechtenstein succession law allows mandatory heirs to claw back gifts or legacies that are gifted to third parties in breach of their compulsory portion. Mandatory heirs may file a clawback claim to receive the balance of their compulsory portion if they receive less than their compulsory share in the estate.

Intestacy

If an individual dies in your jurisdiction without leaving valid instructions for the disposition of the estate, to whom does the estate pass and in what shares?

Liechtenstein provides a legal order of succession in cases where no valid instruction is left by the deceased individual. The legal heirs are descendants, spouses or registered partners, as well as the closest relatives. By law, there are four parentela. The first parentela contains the deceased’s descendants. The children inherit in equal shares, and predeceased children are represented by their own descendants. Alongside this first parentela, the spouse or registered partner is entitled to one-half of the inheritance. If the deceased leaves no descendants, the second parentela is entitled to receive the estate. These are the deceased’s parents, who inherit equal shares, unless one or both of them are predeceased, in which case they are represented by their descendants. The spouse or registered partner is entitled to two-thirds of the inheritance alongside the second parentela, as well as alongside the third parentela, who are the grandparents and their descendants. The third parentela inherits from the deceased if there is no remaining second parentela relative. If there are no third parentela relatives, inheritance passes to the fourth parentela, the great-grandparents (who if predeceased are not represented by their descendants). However, alongside the fourth parentela, the spouse or registered partner is entitled to the whole inheritance. In other words, the great-grandparents do not inherit any of the estate if the deceased is survived by a spouse or a registered partner. If the deceased leaves no spouse or registered partner and no relative in any of the four parentelas, there are no entitled legal heirs. In this case, the estate falls to the state.

Adopted and illegitimate children

In relation to the disposition of an individual’s estate, are adopted or illegitimate children treated the same as natural legitimate children and, if not, how may they inherit?

Regarding the law of succession, Liechtenstein does not distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate children. Adopted children are treated the same as natural legitimate children in relation to their adoptive parents and siblings, but they are not entitled to inherit from their adoptive parents’ ancestors (ie, parents and grandparents of the adoptive parent and their descendants). A descendant shall be entitled to inherit from their natural ancestors, regardless of his or her adoption by third persons.

Distribution

What law governs the distribution of an individual’s estate and does this depend on the type of property within it?

The applicable law of succession is determined by nationality. The laws of Liechtenstein are applicable unless the deceased was either a foreign national or a Liechtenstein national living abroad. Liechtenstein is not subject to the European Succession Regulation. Nonetheless, the Liechtenstein International Private Law Act may apply.

Formalities

What formalities are required for an individual to make a valid will in your jurisdiction?

A valid will is required to be either written and signed by an individual’s own hand (handwritten testament) or signed by the testator and testified by three capable witnesses, who also need to sign the document if the last will is written by someone other than the testator or is written by the testator but not by hand. Additionally, there is the possibility of making an oral or written will in court. If there is a direct risk of the testator dying or losing his or her capacity to make a valid will, it is possible to determine an individual’s oral will if attended by members of the court.

Foreign wills

Are foreign wills recognised in your jurisdiction and how is this achieved?

Foreign wills are recognised if they meet the formal requirements either of the testator’s country of origin or the testator’s residence. If the inheritance procedure is executed by a Liechtenstein court, the will must comply with the formalities required by Liechtenstein law.

Administration

Who has the right to administer an estate?

An heir accepting succession has the right to administer the estate individually. If there is more than one heir, the heirs may administer jointly. If the heirs are at odds with each other or if the titles of inheritance are ambiguous, a curator will be appointed by the court.

How does title to a deceased’s assets pass to the heirs and successors? What are the rules for administration of the estate?

The estate of a deceased person is considered an entity with a legal personality. Depending on their probate, heirs are liable for all their assets or only to the extent of their inheritance. In general, the estate is transferred in accordance with the formal requirements for the transfer of assets under Liechtenstein law. Regarding the administration, after the declaration of acceptance, the heirs have the right to administer the estate together by making consensual decisions. In the case of conflict, the court appoints a trustee of the estate as a representative. Disposal of any part of the estate is not allowed without the approval of court.

Challenge

Is there a procedure for disappointed heirs and/or beneficiaries to make a claim against an estate?

Heirs may challenge the validity of a will. After the declaration of acceptance, Liechtenstein law provides a special succession proceeding against persons gaining the estate or a share of it. In this lawsuit, any other person can claim a better or equal right to the estate. Someone who claims a single item of the estate shall only use the regular civil proceeding.

Law stated date

Correct on:

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

April 2020.