Q) I was born in Korea but married a US citizen, moved to the US and am now a US citizen.I learned that my father has passed away in Korea and am looking for some assistance on accepting or renouncing the inheritance. I was the forth child. After I was born, my parents divorced and the first two children went with my father and the third child and I went with my mother. My father remarried and had three other children. My mother and the second wife are still alive. I was told that the estate includes property (house) and some savings. The second wife wants to live in the house until she dies and it sounds like my other siblings agreed. My half brother with whom I’ve had no previous contact called and said they need my cooperation to proceed. He asked me to sign some Korean document which I don’t understand. I’m trying to decide whether to accept or renounce the inheritance and how to accomplish either of those in the easiest way possible.
A) Under Korean inheritance law, currently you are the co-owner of the total estate without any registration or report. Other heirs cannot distribute, dispose of the estate without your consent.
The heirs in Korea might be in a hurry to pay the inheritance tax which might be one of the reasons why he contacted you. But, you should not give them the power of attorney or any authorization/consent until you have the information you need which includes your deceased parent’s name, Korean residence registration number and the detail of the estate. If he refuses to provide that, I think that is a red flag. At least he should let you know the Korean resident registration number, which is required for you to file an asset search inquiry with the Korean government.
If you do not want to be tied up with other heirs, you can either (i) settle out with them buying out your share or (ii) go to the Korean court asking the distribution of the estate.
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