Whatever its form: For most people, the family is one of the most important things in life. In order to continue to enjoy a good family life over the long term, it's important to deal with issues that could tarnish the family's happiness.
Whether a divorce, pension gaps, or strokes of fate such as accidents, illnesses, or death – no family is exempt, but you can protect yourself by planning ahead against potential risks.
Every family is different. Married with children, unmarried parents, a divorced and single parent, same-sex couple with children, or a patchwork family – the number of potential family models has seen a big change in recent decades in the wake of social developments. Even if most families still correspond to the classical constellation (married parents and their biological offspring), every fifth Swiss child is already growing up in a family with unmarried parents or another non-traditional partnership. And looking to the future, alternative forms such as families with a single parent, patchwork and rainbow families will increase further.
Even the traditional family has to take a lot of issues into account when planning its old age and risk protection. However, this model is relatively well protected in law due to the marital bond, making it all the more urgent to respond to the question of how to comprehensively protect family members of unmarried models against possible risks such as loss of earnings and the death of the principal earner.
Despite social upheaval and the associated alternative options, the traditional nuclear family is still widespread in Switzerland. It is defined as married parents and their biological children. In this family model, the father generally assumes the role of the principal earner, while the mother usually looks after the household and the children with no remuneration or social insurance coverage. In many regions today, a more modern version of the family model is common, the so-called weak breadwinner model, in which the mother is in part-time paid work in addition to her care duties.
Among the possible family constellations, the married model with child or children enjoys the greatest legal protection in Switzerland. All personal and property relationships of the married partners are regulated by law. As an example, the parents are automatically granted shared custody from the birth of a child. In addition, as a family, there is provision for old age and they have a mutual obligation to provide assistance as well as a mutual inheritance entitlement. If an accident or illness occurs, they also have the right to receive medical information.
In the traditional family model, risks often arise from an imbalance between the principal and supplementary earners.
Anyone seeking comprehensive protection for their family against risks is well-advised to take these precautionary measures.
More and more couples are opting for cohabitation instead of marriage which, although superficially very similar to marriage, can, in contrast, be informally terminated at any time. In addition to tax and cost advantages, most couples see the lack of legal obligations as the biggest advantage over marriage. This means greater freedom in everyday life, but also less security for the partners and their children in an emergency. If you are cohabiting rather than married, binding rules become an advantage at the latest when you want to start a family.
For unmarried couples in concubinage, there are no binding rules. All obligations between the life partners have to be drawn up independently and written down in a cohabitation agreement. Hence, the father, for example, is not automatically related to the child from birth – the legal parent-child relationship initially only applies to the mother. For the father and child to be connected by a legal relationship, the paternity must first be officially recognized.
The freedom of living together without a marriage certificate often becomes a disadvantage in an emergency. Many couples live in a de facto marriage, but lack equal protection on separation or death. Inheritance and pension planning require particular attention.
A parent alone with the child from birth, separated, divorced, or widowed with a biological, adopted, step- or foster child: Single-parent families come about in various ways. In Switzerland, some 14% of all family households with children are single-parent families.
If the second parent is still alive and does not pose a risk for the child, the parents continue to share parental care. In most cases, one of the parents – usually the mother - has sole custody of the child and assumes all the tasks associated with its upbringing: earning money, running the household, childcare.
The legal protection depends on the marital status of the single-parent family. Are or were the parents married, was the child born to an unmarried couple, or is a parent deceased? Maintenance payments after the end of the partnership depend on the previous situation and correspond to individual arrangements – such as a cohabitation agreement.
Raising children alone is no easy matter. And it's even harder to be well-insured and save capital for old age – especially on the tight budget usually at the disposal of a single-parent family. Therefore, an above-average number of single parents are affected by pension gaps.
Patchwork families are often characterized by the complexity of their biological and personal relationships. Whether through separation, divorce or the death of a parent, at least one partner brings one or more children from a previous relationship into the new marriage or partnership. The birth of new, joint children can lead to the addition of further half-sibling relationships to this family constellation.
As the name suggests: One patchwork family rarely resembles another. Each has its own history with, in most cases, a correspondingly complex legal situation. On the one hand, because children in a patchwork family usually have a mixture of biological and non-biological parents and siblings. But also because the parents may already have a family history involving such obligations.
A stroke of fate can have serious consequences, especially if the life partners in a patchwork family are not married. Legal succession is based on the classic family with the result that non-biological children and life partners are left empty-handed following the death of a parent.
A family in which at least one parent considers themself to belong to the LGBT grouping is described as a rainbow family. The children in a same-sex partnership can originate from a previous heterosexual relationship, or have been born, adopted or fostered into a lesbian or gay life partnership.
If same-sex couples and children form a family, providing financial protection is challenging since both parents are only recognized in law if the biological child of a parent is adopted by the co-parent. There is no parental care without a parent-child relationship, which means that the co-parent has neither rights nor obligations. In the event of a separation or the death of the biological parent, custody is not transferred to the co-parent without a stepchild adoption – in a worst case scenario, the child will either be taken away or placed with a third party.
Inheritance law and the social insurance system are geared toward traditional families. Only registered partners, biological children and adopted children have a legal claim to the inheritance and to a survivor's pension from the AHV, mandatory accident insurance, and the pension fund of the deceased.
If you die, your spouse receives benefits from Pillars 1 and 2. However, this is often less than the actual income requirement – especially if you have joint financial obligations. You can fill this pension gap using preventive measures such as taking out life insurance or whole life insurance.
Unmarried couples have no mutual legal inheritance entitlement if a partner dies. Individual pension solutions such as a cohabitation agreement or a will ensure that the life partner can inherit. In addition, it is advisable that the life partner informs their own pension fund and benefits their partner with their retirement savings under Pillars 3a and 3b.
If the children are still minors or still in education, the AHV pays an orphan's pension if you die. In addition, in a legally valid will, you can distribute your estate and stipulate the guardianship rules in line with your wishes. A rule on how the inherited assets are to be managed should also be included in a will.
That depends on your marital status. If you are married or living in a registered partnership, the savings are distributed to your children and spouse according to the legal line of succession or the marriage contract. If you are unmarried, any biological or adopted children receive the lion's share – the next heirs in accordance with the legal line of succession are your parents, your siblings and their children. An unmarried life partner must be mentioned explicitly via an individual provision ruling, otherwise they end up empty-handed. If you leave a will, the people listed therein are taken into account.
Generally, the following applies: All precautionary measures must be taken individually while you are both still alive and be specified in writing - i.e. in a cohabitation agreement - since no entitlements exist in law. It doesn't matter how long you have lived together.
With occupational disability and/or term life insurance. The former is a sensible investment at the latest when you acquire your own property. It adds to the mandatory benefits paid by social insurance in the case of occupational disability for health reasons or disability, allowing you to continue to receive your usual income. Term life insurance is also suitable for financing residential property and mortgages in the event of occupational disability.