Should I write a Will?
International Inheritance is always complicated and time consuming but having a properly written Will can significantly facilitate the process. With such Will, heirs can skip many processes which are otherwise required.
If there is no Will, the distribution of the properties needs to be made according to the governing law.
In case Japanese law applies, all legal heirs are required to hold a discussion to determine how to distribute specific properties and make a written agreement called “遺産分割協議書 Isan Bunkatsu Kyougi Sho”.
In many cases, this discussion does not go smoothly and lead to prolonged dispute. If heirs can’t agree on the conditions of distribution through dialogue, they can take it into court but it may take years before you can get some portions of properties.
If non-Japanese law applies, it will be more problematic, because basically Japanese authorities and organization including bank are not familiar with the inheritance procedures subject to foreign law.
Will be written in Japanese?
The concept of inheritance procedures differs considerably from country to country. A Will prepared in English in accordance with applicable state law may create obstacles to the succession of properties in Japan. Similarly, a Will prepared in Japanese in accordance with Japanese law may cause problems for the succession in the United States.
Therefore, a Will should be prepared in Japanese in accordance with Japanese law for properties in Japan in addition to the Will written in English in accordance with applicable state law.
Please note, if the description of two Wills contradict or conflict with each other, the validity of either Will may be denied. So it is important to consult with lawyers of both countries.
How to write a Will in Japan
In Japan, Will by Holograph Document and Will by Notarized Document are often used. People like the simplicity of Will by Holograph Document, but we recommend Will by Notarized Document.
Will by Holograph Document
Will by Holograph Document (自筆証書遺言 Jihitsu Shosho Igon in Japanese) is a Will that the testator writes in full in his or her own handwriting. You can prepare this Will easily without expense. However, it may be invalid if it does not meet the formal requirements stipulated in laws.
In addition, it won’t work as you expect if necessary information is missing or if the meaning of the Will is unclear.
Besides, if this Will is kept at home, it may be lost, or the the person who finds it may destroy, conceal, or alter it, if he or she thinks the Will contains something that is against his or her benefit.
Will by Notarized Document
Will by Notarized Document (公正証書遺言 Kousei Shosho Igon in Japanese) is a Will that is notarized at a notary public office.
Notary, a legal expert, checks the meaning and legality of the Will. So the validity of this will are rarely denied. In addition, there is no need to worry about the Will being destroyed, hidden, or altered, because notary office will keep the original of this Will.