Inheritance in China
Inheritance in ChinaUpdated on Tuesday 26th March 2019
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Inheritance in China is a legal process by which the close descendants of a deceased person can benefit from his or her life possessions, real or movable assets – such as real estate properties, money and other valuables the deceased may have owned. Valuables can be inherited by the wife or a husband, children or other close relatives – sisters or brothers. Our Chinese lawyers can offer you assistance if you need legal representation in an inheritance matter.
Inheritance assets in China
A person can inherit the assets that the deceased owned in his or her lifetime. According to Chinese law, the following assets can be passed on to a relative who has the right to succession:
- • the income;
- • the house - including the objects inside;
- • forest tree or livestock;
- • cultural material – such as books or articles;
- • means of production and the property rights of copyright material or patents;
- • other properties the decedent may have owned.
Notarization of the Inheritance in China
In order to be acknowledged as the person who legally inherits an asset, certain documents must be presented to the notary. Our lawyers in China can explain the inheritance process, if you may need further clarifications and assistance. As a person inheriting an asset, you should know that the ownership will be legally recognized if the following documents are submitted for notarization:
- • identity certificate of the person who will receive the inheritance;
- • the decedent’s death certificate and the certificate of kinship with the decedent;
- • information about statutory inheritors in the family;
- • property ownership certificate and the original testament – if applicable;
- • a written agreement (applicable in the case of marital property agreement, signed by the spouses before one’s death);
- • a waiver of the right to inherit – if applicable, and a notarized power of attorney.
A few years ago, the Chinese government has raised the question whether it would be necessary that an inheritance tax should be imposed at the moment of passing the ownership rights, but until now, this legislative provision has not been passed. Our attorneys in China can offer you more details on the subject and on the economic viability of the inheritance tax.
How are the assets passed in the family?
The assets of a deceased are passed in a specific order: to the spouse, the children, the parents and finally to the grandparents if it is the case. As it is known, the first persons who are entitled to inherit the properties or values of a predecessor are the wife and the children, and if they do not live anymore, the second in line are the parents, according to the Chinese laws. There are also particular cases where the children pass away before the predecessor, and in this matter, the children’s direct lineal descendants have the right to succession by subrogation. It is extremely important to know the inheritance rules and have an idea about the legal aspects involving family matters in case of legacy, therefore, you might want to get in touch with our Chinese attorneys who can tell you more details. They can also explain the rights of foreigners married to Chinese citizens in case they want to make the will.
Inheritance exceptions in China
A daughter in law or a son in law supporting the parents in law are entitled in the first instance to inheritance, as their main rights. However, there are also special cases to consider:
- • A large share is granted to a successor who cannot provide he/she works in China (cases of poverty or inability to work).
- • A small share of the assets is offered, as imposed by the Chinese laws, to successors who did not support the predecessor during his/her lifetime.
- • A large share of the assets or values is granted to successors who took care, in financial terms, of the predecessor (such information can be comprised by a will).
- • A good part of the assets can be inherited by a foreign person (out of the family) if he or she supported the deceased one.
Inheritance matters in China are treated seriously, and the applicable legislation is meant to protect the family members and their legacy. Foreign citizens living in China will have to align with the regulations in this country, especially if they are married to a Chinese citizen. Do not hesitate to talk to our specialists and find out how they can help in matters of legal advice and support.
The rights of a spouse in China
According to the applicable legislation in China, the husband and the wife have equal rights when it comes to assets and valuables. This is the main principle of the Chinese legislation and the one directly involved in an inheritance case. As stated by the People’s Republic of China Inheritance Law and unless other settlements have been arranged by a pre- or post-nuptial contract, half of the joint properties assimilated by the couple during their marriage will be the first selected to the surviving spouse as his or her own asset. Furthermore, according to the same law, the rest of the valuables or properties will be divided to the children and parents in the family, and it will represent the decedent’s legacy. It is good to know that if the decedent’s asset is part of the common property of the family, then that share of the assets belonging to the other family members will be the first one separated before the division of the decedent’s property takes place. The Inheritance Law in China mentions that the joint property is different from the property owned by a spouse before marriage, a matter where the inheritance conditions might change. Please talk to our legal advisors for more details in this direction.
What kind of property is subject to the Inheritance Law in China?
The Inheritance Law clearly stipulates that the domicile of a deceased represents the immovable property subject to legacy. The properties subject to the Inheritance Law in China are the movable properties of citizens living in China, the movable properties of foreign citizens living in this country, and the immovable properties of a foreigner or local resident in China. As a definition stated by the Inheritance Law in China, the domicile represents the place of living of a person, for more than just one year, meaning that it has to be personal property. In the case of foreigners living in China, their properties will have to be registered with the local authorities who issue specific registration documents.
As a general conclusion, the inheritance process is straightforward, including in cases of legacy and property rights for widowed sons in law or stepchildren for example. Special rights of succession can apply to particular cases, depending on the circumstances and the family members involved. It is important to have legal advice by your side and to solicit support in cases of inheritance, in order to skip any confusions regarding the pertinent laws in China.
If you need legal representation, please contact our Chinese lawyers, who can offer you support on inheritance laws in China.