“I am an adoptee from South Korea to the U.S. Currently I live 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.  Can an adopted child inherit from biological parents in Korea?  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 inheritance rights under Korean law?”

Everything Boils Down to Whether it is Full Adoption or Simple Adoption

A legal child is entitled to inheritance from his/her deceased parent. When the child is adopted, some jurisdictions treat the adoption as disconnecting the legal relationship with the biological parent, and some jurisdictions don’t. We call the former as a full adoption and the latter as a simple adoption.

As you can understand from the general idea of inheritance, an adopted child can inherit from biological parents in Korea only when the adoption is regarded as (more…)

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 (more…)

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 (more…)

Q) I have a question about whether to renounce inheritance in Korea. 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 the U.S. and they are U.S. citizens. 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. They even said as I am not a Korean citizen, it would be much better renouncing inheritance for the sake of estate distribution. He said he will compensate me for my renounced share. Can you give me any advice?

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[Updated on April 19th, 2020] Under the Korean inheritance law, the inheritance comes to fruition immediately when a person is deceased. The Korean inheritance law, the part V of Civil Act, provides who shall become the inheritor and beneficiary of the property of a deceased person, i.e. estate.

The inheritor and beneficiary, however, shall not always take everything from the estate. There are separate rules and restrictions on the distribution of the estate in South Korea.

In this article, we will explain to you the basic rules and practices of inheritance in Korea.

Who Shall Become the Heirs and How to Distribute the Estate under the Korean Inheritance Law

The basic rule of the Korean inheritance law is that the property of the deceased is distributed according to his or her will.  So, a person who is not categorized as an inheritor by law can become a beneficiary of the estate 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 purpose.  

According to the intestate succession rule, persons become beneficiaries in the following order.

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On May 30, 2014, the Seoul Family Court handed down a ground-breaking decision which recognized the paternity between a Korean male and his children born out of lawful wedlock in the Philippines.  The decision marked the first time ever that a Korean Family Court adjudicated on the parentage of so-called “Kopino”, the term for those children born between a Filipina mother and a Korean father out of marriage.

The sociocultural issue surrounding the Kopino has been the criticism that the Korean fathers have abandoned Kopinos by leaving Philippines and providing no supports.  In this court case, the story was quite typical.  The Korean father met a Philippine woman back in 1997, when he was running a toy manufacturing business in Philippines.  In 1998 and 2000, they had 2 children.  But he couldn’t marry her, because he was already married to another woman in South Korea.  On April 14, 2004, he suddenly left Philippines alone and never contacted his children again.  He had never paid any support for his children.

In December 2012, frustrated by the irresponsibility of the Korean father, the children’s mother in Philippines had moved to bring a legal action in Seoul Family Court against the Korean father to establish the paternity of her children.  After 15-month litigation, the DNA test confirmed the blood ties between (more…)