We recently handled a matter concerning a large estate of a Korean national. The estate included assets in Korea, the U.K., the U.S. and Hong Kong. The deceased, additionally, held shares in a number of closed-corporations outside of Korea.
The heirs to the estate included foreign national children and a Korean wife. The deceased died without a will. Since, the husband was a national of Korea, the matter was governed under the Korean inheritance/probate law. If the deceased was a non-Korean national, in most cases, the matter would have been handled under the law of the jurisdiction where the deceased was a resident. Thus, the nationality of the children (hiers) had no bearing on the matter.
Tax and other considerations made it a best option for one of the heirs to renounce the estate, thus, transferring that portion of the estate to the remainder of the heirs in equal shares.
In order to renounce an inheritance in Korea, in most cases, the heir is required to make a “declaration of renunciation to the family court” (Korean Civil Act, Art. 1041) in Korea within three (3) months of notification of the inheritance to the heir. Act quick.
Often, not renouncing an estate can lead to the assumption of the debt of the estate. A debt that is enforeceable outside of Korea.
After termination of this period, the estate is presumed accepted without condition.
However, the co-inheritor of a particular asset may divide the inheritance based on contract under Article 1013 of the Civil Act or gift the asset to the remaining heirs. The inability to renounce an asset may create an additional taxable event.
If you intend to renounce an inheritance, the renouncement should, in most cases, be done through the Korean family court within three months of death of the owner of the estate.
If you believe you are the victim of an unscrupulous relative (I see this far to often), contact an attorney immediately. You often have options at the Korean courts if you act quickly and smartly.
Additionally, don't sign an agreement that you don't understand or you may find yourself in a debt that you wished you could avoid. Yes, Korean creditors can attached attach globally.