By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

It is normal to be anxious about the validity of your foreign will in Japan. You want the wishes of your last will and testament to be honored regardless of your current domicile. Thankfully, the will should be recognized as valid in Japan as long as certain conditions are met. It’s important to equip yourself with the most accurate knowledge, especially when living in a foreign country where legality is concerned. To find out about the details of these conditions, continue reading.

Determining if your foreign will is valid in Japan

Your foreign will shall be recognized as valid in Japan as long as the following conditions are met:

  1. The will is compliant and legally recognized in the jurisdiction in which it was made,
  2. The will is legally recognized in the home country of the person writing the will, and
  3. The will is recognized in the country where the person is physically resident at the time of their death.

Applicable law

A will shall be valid so long as it complies with any of the following laws (Article 2, Act on the Law Applicable to the Form of Wills):

I. the law of the place where the act was performed (lex loci actus);
II. the law of the country where the testator had nationality, either at the time he/she made the will or at the time of his/her death;
III. the law of the place where the testator had domicile, either at the time he/she made the will or at the time of his/her death;
IV. the law of the place where the testator had habitual residence, either at the time he/she made the will or at the time of his/her death; or
V. in the case of a will concerning real property, the law of the place where the real property is located.

As a foreigner in Japan

Know that it is possible for a foreigner to make a will in Japan. You should consider creating a Japanese will with the help of a lawyer, because it can be very difficult for the heirs of foreigners in Japan to access assets, even money from bank accounts. Having a Japanese will would make the process of dealing with the procedures in Japan much easier for your heirs.

Types of wills in Japan

There are two main types of wills in Japan, and you must follow the prescribed form specified by the Japanese Civil Code when making a will or else it will not be considered valid (Article 960, Civil Code).

Holograph (handwritten) will

This is the simplest form of will, requiring the testator (the person making the will) to fully hand-write the will, sign and date the will, and place his/her stamp (hanko) thereon. This method is highly cost effective compared to the notary deed will; however, disagreements can arise among family members when interpreting the will’s writing and expressions.

Notary deed will

A notary deed will is the more expensive option but has many benefits to outweigh the extra cost. To create this kind of will the testator must visit a notary office (kōshō-yakuba) and dictate the will to a notary, thereafter inspecting the will. Two witnesses are required for this method, and the notary will keep a copy of the will in the notary office, which makes this option highly secure. Finally, unlike the holograph will, this method is unlikely to give rise to disagreements among family members when interpreting the will and its expressions.

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice.

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