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The message that life wrote

The Agent of Death

A wealthy lady, childless, dies, leaving behind villas, stocks and jewellery. A case for the  inheritance investigator Manuel Aicher , who tracks down the relatives and earns money from their inheritance.


On May 8, 2002   Veronique Züllig opened a letter, skimmed the text under the salutation and saw words like deceased, heritage and Berlin. "He deals with death," she thought on the way to the wastebasket, when a flash of inspiration made her pause: "Berlin, Berlin? Isn't that where the great-grandmother lives?" Then, as she read the letter, it dawned on her. Manuel Aicher, one of two Swiss heir investigators, had written to her: Inge Elisabeth Klöss, 83, widowed, childless, had died without leaving a will. However, shares, jewelry and a villa in Berlin's noble district of Zehlendorf. She, Veronique Züllig, inherits an eighth of that.


In 2000   the Swiss inherited a good 8.5 billion francs. When Aicher reads official gazettes about inheritances, he tries to find out the assets of the deceased, searches for the heirs from 50,000 francs and writes to them. He demands 15 to 35 percent commission from the estate for the information about who they inherit from and how much. The following applies: “More effort, more percentage. More fortune, less percentage. » Manuel Aicher, 48, was left with 80,000 francs from the Berlin inheritance. Most of the time, he and his three employees from Dietikon ZH and Berlin process estates of around 200,000 francs. His smallest case was 6,000 francs, the largest 20 million - without having found the heirs of the widow of the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky.


Nine out of ten heirs pay the bounty hunter a commission to support his family of five. Veronique Züller, 56, paid 18 percent. "Without him, I wouldn't know anything about the inheritance." The saleswoman for a travel magazine lives with her mother in Romanshorn TG in a two-family house. One of her 17 co-heirs got the Meissner porcelain in Berlin, but couldn't sell it in Switzerland and sent it back. "The great-aunt would turn around in the grave," says Veronique Züllig. Some co-heirs from Switzerland, the USA and Mexico saw the rip-off in Aicher and paid nothing. "It's an occupational hazard, like real estate agents," he says. The lawyer, who settles up to 20 inheritances a year, has had stranger experiences: A Clochard, who was always pushing a shopping trolley through Zurich, left 400,000 francs. In Germany, Nazi laws block a Jewish family's inheritance. And an heir came forward as heiress

- gender changed. The Agent of Death finds them through the Internet, family records, church records, obituaries, state archives, resident registration records, Mormon databases, civil registry offices, baptismal and euthanasia records, address books, and court records. Although the authorities “only give him little support with the data protection argument”. Because they too would like to inherit, as in Switzerland only relatives up to the descendants of the grandparents are entitled to inherit. Otherwise the state collects. This "socialist" law makes sense, says Aicher, even though it reduces his income. "Why should relatives who didn't know the deceased inherit?"


Veronique Züllig , childless, divorced, who did not know her great-aunt, inherited 96,000 francs from her. "My retirement plan." She also arranged her rest in death and left her fortune to a single person in her will. "No one will dispute my inheritance at my grave." 

Roland Bingisser

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