Korean Inheritance Law: Who Inherits What, When & How in Korea?

If a decedent, governed by Korea’s Inheritance Law, dies without a will (intestate succession) the estate of decedent shall pass according to Korea’s Intestate Succession Law.  The key points of Korean Intestate Succession Law and Korean Inheritance Law is noted below.  We deal with many cases, at our law firm in Korea, where a Korean family member requests a U.S. or European family member to disclaim an inheritance.  Normally, a form is provided to the foreign family member.  We suggest understanding the situation and understanding what you are disclaiming.  For an article on this issue please see: Disclaiming an Inheritance & Renouncing an Estate in Korea. 

Korean Intestate Succession Law
Priorities under Korea’s Intestate Succession Law: 

  1. Direct descendants (children and grandchildren);
  2. Direct ascendants (parents and grandparents);
  3. Siblings (brothers and sisters); and
  4. Relatives within the 4th Degree.

If a spouse survives the decedent and descendants survive within the First or Second Priority, the spouse shall co-inherit the estate, however, the spouse shall receive a 50% greater share of the estate than the other inheritors.  If no descendants survive the decadent within the First and Second Priority, the surviving spouse shall receive the entire estate under Korea’s Intestate Succession Law.

If multiple descendants within the same degree of relationship survives the decedent, the decedents shall inherit the estate equally.  Any descendants within the same priority shall inherit equally unless one descendant is within a closer degree of relationship than the other descendants.

The Caveat: The Reserve Share
Even if a will exists, descendants must receive under Korean Law, 50% of the share of the estate that the descendant would have received if the decedent passed without a will.

The majority of cases we see relate to family members, in Korea, requesting a family member in the States or Europe to disclaim an inheritance.  It is, obviously, best to understand the situation prior to disclaiming an inheritance.

Please note, in most cases, dying in Korea does not bind you to Korea’s Intestate Succession Law, thus, have a will drafted by a lawyer experienced in international estate issues.

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