When a foreign national dies in Japan, under which country’s laws is the probate handled?

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Japanese laws regarding probate and inheritance generally only apply to Japanese citizens. This means that foreign nationals who lived, owned property and die in Japan will still have their assets distributed under the law of their home country, rather than Japan. This also includes foreign nationals who become permanent residents of Japan.

This rule creates difficulties since the executor of the estate will need to first determine the rules of the deceased’s home country before starting the distribution. Then, it is necessary to work with Japanese officials at the Legal Affairs Bureau of Japan to determine whether the correct documents have been assembled to put into effect the deceased’s wishes.

Because this process involves the laws of two countries it is important to work closely with lawyers in both Japan and the deceased’s home country when managing an international probate matter.

If you have any questions about probate and inheritance in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.