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What is renunciation of inheritance?
<1. Japanese Civil Code (“Minpō”)>
Article 915 (1)An heir shall give unconditional or qualified acceptance, or renunciation, regarding inheritance within three months of the time he/she has knowledge that there has been a commencement of inheritance for him/her; provided that this period may be extended by the family court at the request of an interested party or a public prosecutor.
Article 921 An heir shall be deemed to have made unconditional acceptance in the following cases:
(i) if an heir has made a disposition of the inherited property in whole or in part; provided that this shall not apply to an act of preservation or a lease that does not exceed the period determined in Article 602;
(ii) if an heir has not made qualified acceptance or renunciation of inheritance within the period of paragraph (1) of Article 915;
(iii) if an heir, even after having made qualified acceptance or renunciation of inheritance, conceals inherited property in whole or part, uses that property for him/herself, or failed intentionally to enter it in the inventory of inherited property; provided that this shall not apply after the acceptance of a person who has become an heir due to the renunciation of inheritance of the original heir.
Article 938 A person who intends to renounce inheritance shall make a statement to that effect to the family court.
<2. What is renunciation of inheritance?>
Renunciation of inheritance means that a person (heir) does not inherit any of legacy of deceased and shall be deemed as not originally having been an heir to the inheritance.
Under Japanese Civil Code, if a person dies intestate (without a will), an heir who is stipulated by Chapter II Heir of the Civil Code shall succeed blanket rights and duties attached to the property of the decedent from the time of commencement of inheritance automatically.
According to Article 915 (1) of the Civil Code, a heir has opportunity to choose unconditional or qualified acceptance(※NOTE), or renunciation, regarding inheritance within three months.
unconditional acceptance : he/she (heir) inherits the rights and duties of the decedent without limitation.
qualified acceptance : he/she (heir) accepts inheritance reserving to perform the obligation or testamentary gift of the decedent only within the extent of the property obtained by inheritance.
However, Article 921 (ii) of the Civil Code provides that if an heir has not made qualified acceptance or renunciation of inheritance within the period of paragraph (1) of Article 915, the heir shall be deemed to have made unconditional acceptance.
Therefore, without taking any action regarding renunciation, a heir shall succeed blanket rights and duties attached to the property of the decedent automatically, so that a heir who intends to avoid inheritance should take legal procedure in order to renounce inheritance.
<3. In what kind of situation should you renounce inheritance?>
Such renunciation of inheritance is often made when the total value of an estate is in negative figures.
For example, if a deceased was in debt and the amount of debts exceed the total value of positive assets, a heir should consider renouncing inheritance.
Furthermore, a heir can renounce inheritance even if the total value is positive.
For example, if a heir, who is an overseas resident, considers that inheritance of real estate in Japan is too burdensome for him or her to manage, that heir might wish to renounce the inheritance.
In such situation, the heir will take legal procedure regarding renunciation of inheritance.
In the next column concerning inheritance law and practice, we are going to explain “until when should a heir take legal procedure if he/she intends to renounce inheritance”, “how to renounce inheritance (procedure)” , “how long does the process take” and so on.
If you would like to consult us about the legal issues of renunciation of inheritance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Lawyer Ken Takahashi
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