Foundations allow assets to be used for a specific purpose.
Assets can be liberated by setting up a foundation (Art. 80-89c of the Swiss Civil Code CC). A foundation is a legal entity which acts through the intermediary of a managing body (the foundation board). A foundation is established by means of a notarial act or a will. Since January 1, 2016 (status: July 2015), all private foundations must be entered in the trade register to obtain legal personality. Existing family or religious foundations are still recognized as legal entities but must be entered in the trade register within five years.
The founder's wishes, as defined in the foundation agreement, are essential for a foundation to engage in commercial activities. The public authorities (confederation, cantons and municipalities) are responsible for ensuring that these wishes are respected depending on the nature and purpose of the foundation. Foundations are subject to supervision by the authorities with the exception of family and ecclesiastical foundations.
Employee pension funds organized in the form of foundations have gained in significance in the commercial sector. A foundation is not an ideal legal form for a company. In addition, a company’s future could be tied to that of the foundation and may be predetermined in the long term by the aims of the foundation.