Ask Korea Law

Published by Chung & Partners Since 2008


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Choice of Laws Is Critical When It Comes to an International Inheritance

Korean LawyerRecently our office has represented US clients whose German father had passed away in South Korea without any will.  At the time of passing, the deceased was domiciled in Korea and remarried to a Korean wife.  The Korean wife contacted the US family out of blue to discuss how to distribute the estate in Korea.  The US clients were the children from the deceased’s previous marriage in the US.  They contacted our office for the legal advice and representation.

One of the issues was which country’s inheritance law shall be applicable, i.e. the Korean inheritance law or the German inheritance law.  This was because the deceased had a foreign nationality, while his estate and residence at the time of passing were all in Korea.  Practically, when the Korean law is applied, the US children shall be entitled to the larger shares than those granted under the German law.

In Korea, Article 49 of the Korean Act on Private International Law(“APIL”) is the starting point to determine which country’s law shall be the governing law in case of an international inheritance case.  It provides that Continue reading


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[Q&A] As a Korean Adoptee Living in the U.S., Do I Have an Inheritance Right to My Biological Father in Korea?

Q) I am a Korean adoptee that lives in the U.S.  Recently I found my biological parents died in South Korea.  He is survived by his wife and 2 sons.  He had businesses in Korea.  Do I have a right to claim an inheritance to his estate?  I have never met or spoken to his wife and sons and so I don’t know if he had a will written.  What are my rights?

A) Based on your explanation, I am of the opinion that you are entitled to the inheritance to your deceased Korean father.  The law of your deceased father’s home country shall govern your inheritance claim.  Under Korean law, assuming he is survived by his wife and 2 sons, your inheritance share will be 2/9. (Please click here for a general overview of the Korean inheritance law)

You will need to file 2 suits with the Korean court.  The first one will be a paternity suit and the second one will be a inheritance claim suit.

Actually I have been dealing with a very similar case.  She was adopted to American family when she was young from Korea and asked our office to claim her inheritance to her deceased Korean biological father.  We won the paternity suit Continue reading


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[Q&A] Do I Really Have to Give up My Inheritance Share as Other Korean Heirs Claim?

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 Continue reading


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Introduction to the Korean Inheritance Law

When a person is deceased in Korea, the inheritance comes to fruition immediately.  The Korean inheritance law provides who shall become the inheritor and beneficiary of the property of a deceased person, i.e. estate.  This, however, does not always mean the inheritor shall be given all the property of the decedent.  There are separate rules and restrictions of the distribution of the estate in Korea.

The basic rule of the Korean inheritance law is that the property of a deceased person is distributed according to his or her will.  So, a person who is not categorised as a person who can be an inheritor by law can be a beneficiary of the property by the decedent’s will.  What if there is no valid will?  The Korean inheritance law sets forth the rule of intestate succession.  This rule of intestate succession names the beneficiary and the shares of each beneficiary for a distribution.  The intestate succession rule provides that persons become beneficiaries in the following order:

  1. Direct descendants (children or grandchildren)
  2. Direct ascendants (parents or grandparents)
  3. Siblings
  4. Relative within the 4th degree of collateral consanguinity

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