3. Jurisdiction and applicable law in Succession
In Japan, the article 37 of the Act on General Rules for Application of Laws is applied for wills and succession. Article 37 states that the formation and effect of a will shall be governed by the national law of a testator at the time of the formation. Concerning this provision, ‘the formation and effect of a will’ means only matters concerning the transmission of wills, such as the mental capacity, defective evidence of intention, effect of a will or validity of a will. When the will comes into effect at the time of death, the contents of the will, including maintenance obligations arising by reason of death is determined by article 36 of the same law.
Under the Act on the Law Applicable to the Form of Wills, both the governing law of the will (article 37) and the inheritance (article 36) are stated to be the national law, but there is a time gap between the will at the time it was established and the inheritance. If the nationality of the person is different between the time of making the will and at the time of death, the governing law might be different. To avoid the confusion, as a practical matter, a testator can choose which law governs succession to their estate.
In addition, when acknowledging a child or putting an estate in the trust under a will, article 29 (Formation of Parent-Child Relationship with Child Born Out of Wedlock) or article 7 (Choice of Governing Law by the Parties) of the same law is applicable.
As well as the Act on General Rules for Application of Laws, there is the Act on the Law Applicable to the Form of Wills, which was created by ratifying the Convention of The Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1961.
Under the Act on the Law Applicable to the Form of Wills, a formally prepared will becomes valid as long as it complies with the law of the place where the will is established, of the country where the testator has nationality, of the place where the testator had domicile, of the place where the testator had habitual residence or the law of the place where the real property is located.
This selective listing of a large number of laws in the Act on the Law Applicable to the Form of Wills allows a statutory will as far as possible, and most wills made under the law of the place where the testator resides will become valid in most of cases. However, in practice, a will which follows the methods of Japanese law is prepared separately in many cases in order to carry out the post-death administrative procedures for Japanese estate smoothly.
It is possible for an individual to make a will for themselves, but that is not without its risks. There might be technical issues that potentially could go wrong. If there are any errors, these could cause problems after the death. I can advise on arrangements for a will, and highlight potential problems that might arise.
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