Q) My mother passed away a few months ago. There was no will. She was a Korean citizen and her husband too. All two children live in US. As we understand I have inherited a 2/7 share of my mother’s condominium and some cash in Korea. My stepfather and his Korean lawyer seem to up to no good. They both have sent conflicting and in my opinion false information to me. Especially his lawyer is threatening me that I would not able to sell my share so I had no choice but to give up or transfer my share. The stepfather asked me to sign POA and a Renunciation of Inheritance but I refused. Can you give any advice?
A) As your deceased mother was a Korean, the Korean inheritance law shall be the governing law in Korea(Please click here for general overview of the Korean inheritance law). Under Korean inheritance law, you and other heirs had already become the co-owners of the condominium and the bank assets of the deceased. You have no reason to give up your share nor transfer the share to the stepfather as he advised. The stepfather’s lawyer alleged that you would have a hard time in selling your share or even would risk of losing your proportion due to the stepfather’s unexpected behavior, i.e. selling or donating his share in the future. But, I don’t think so. His lawyer’s explanation is very misleading. I will explain why.
Many heirs in Korea choose to maintain their co-ownership. During the co-ownership status, they can sell the house by mutual agreement and distribute the proceeds according to their shares at any time. There is no such a thing that (i) this state of ownership is regarded as a limited ownership or (ii) the real property market does not like a co-owened property.
When the agreement among the heirs fail to reach, any heir can ask the court to sell the house and distribute the proceeds. This sort of petition is very common in Korea.
Of course, as the other counsel proposes, you may give up your inheritance share and enter into an agreement with the stepfather so that he can pay your share when he finally sells the house. But, you cannot be sure of when he will sell the house and at what price, and when you will be paid. Also if he refuses to sell the house, and even refuses to pay you, what shall you do? You will probably need to file a suit against him at the Korean court, which is not a good situation for someone like you who live in the U.S. Also there is a matter of trust issue between you and the stepfather.
That said, giving up your share per stepfather’s proposal seems to have no merit here. Alternatively, he can buy out your share with paying a market value of you share as of now.
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