We assist numerous clients concerning intestate succession issues in Korea. Many of these clients are foreigners who are children of a Korean decedent who passed away without a will. Typically, the clients are in need of an asset scrub and assistance in the transfer of the assets to the name of the client and forwarding of the funds overseas.
Please note this present article deals, solely, with Interstate Succession under Korean Law. If your parent was, solely, a national of Korea, in most cases, the laws of the Republic of Korea shall apply to the estate of your parent. The relevant law can be found at: Korean Civil Act Part V (Inheritance) For an additional article on Korean inheritance law please see: Korean Inheritance Law: Who Inherits What, When & How in Korea.
Inheritance Priority under Korean Interstate Succession Law?
The rank of priorities, in Korea, for a person that dies without a will is as follow:
- Direct descendant (children or grandchildren);
- Direct ascendant (parents or grandparents);
- Brother or sister; and
- Blood relatives within the 4th degree.
The heirs who are closest in rank shall have the priority in receiving the inheritance. Those in a lower rank are excluded from the estate. For instance, the decedent died with surviving parents and a brother or sister. The brother or sister does not have a right to receive an inheritance from the estate of the deceased. Only the parents shall inherit.
How about the spouse? The spouse is not included in the list of priorities as the spouse, automatically, inherits all the properties of the decedent in the event that there are no heirs who survive from the first or second priorities. In case the spouse and children of the decedent are both alive, the spouse shall co-inherit with the the children, but the spouse shall receive 50% more of the estate than the children.
Acceptance or Renunciation of Inheritance?
Heirs have the right to receive an inheritance from their deceased parents or relatives if allocated a share under Korean law. However, this inheritance may not be forced upon the heirs if the heirs do not want to inherit from the decedent. Under Article 1019 of the Korean Civil Act, the heirs have the right to accept or refuse any inheritance within three months from the time they are informed that they are entitled to receive the estate of the deceased (exceptions exist). In many cases, a debt may pass to heirs if heirs do not renounce the estate. For an article on renouncing an estate in Korea, please see: Renouncing an Estate/Inheritance under Korean Law
If the heir executed a formal renunciation or refusal of the inheritance and no heirs or relatives qualified, under Korean Law, to receive the property of the decedent, the estate of the decedent shall pass to the Korean government.
The rules on Intestate Succession in Korea are complex especially if there are several heirs who are claiming the estate of the decedent. Additionally, in many family disputes issues of pre-death utilization of assets and loans often become an issue. Hence, it is always best to be represented by an experienced Korean lawyer with experience in the international aspects of family law in order to ensure that your rights as an heir shall be properly protected and so you shall not inherit the debt of your parent.
For a free initial consultation with a lawyer in Korea: Schedule a Call with an Attorney in Korea.
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