Dec 18, 2015

Enforceability of Korean Executed Holographic/Handwritten Wills in Korea

Holographic wills are enforceable in Korea under Article 1066 of the Civil Act of Korea.  Our law firm is, presently, handling a matter concerning the estate of a decadent where the decadent executed a handwritten (holographic) will and the inheritors are Korean and foreign nationals.
Will in Korea Holographic
Holographic Wills

This is a common issue for lawyers at our firm to handle - with the exception of the handwritten will issue.

We, rarely, see cases, these days, of a testator that has executed a handwritten will.  This, however, was not so rare in the not so distant past.

We, highly, recommend not utilizing a handwritten will and having a will formally drafted and executed.  However, in some cases where a testator is near death it may be advisable to execute a handwritten will quickly and, also, quickly, contact an attorney to get a formal will drafted and executed.

Article 1066 of the Civil Act of Korea details the main requirements for enforcement of a holographic will:
"(1) In order to make a will by holograph, the testator must write the whole text of the will with his/her own handwriting, the date, the domicile and his/her full name and must affix her/her seal thereto.
(2) In order to make any insertion, deletion or other alteration of letters in the holograph mentioned in paragragh (1), such alteration must be made in the testator's own handwriting and must affix her/her seal thereto."
Thus, for a holographic will to be valid, in Korea:
  1. The holographic will must be completely in the handwriting of the testator;
  2. The holographic will must contain the date of signing of the will by the testator;
  3. The holographic will must contain the domicile of testator at the time of signing of the will;
  4. The holographic will must contain the full name of the testator; and
  5. The holographic will must contain the testators seal.  
For an amendment to the will, the testator must use his or her own handwriting and must, also, affix his or her seal to the alteration. 

Additionally, the will should, contain specifics with regard to the wishes of the testator that allows a court to fully understand the intent of the testator.  

We, strongly, advise against a holographic will.  The safest manner to insure that your wishes are met is to execute a formal will.  We advise the use of an attorney in Korea that understands, not only the Korean Civil Act of Korea, but Korea's and foreign conflict of law principles if a testator or beneficiary of a will is a foreign national.

Other articles that may be of interest:
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty. Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw.

Sean's profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes