As an insurance salesman in Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, Hisao Ito, 55, has seen times when family members and relatives fight over inheritances.
To reduce such disputes, Ito established the Japanese Inheritance Association, bringing together lawyers, tax accountants and judicial scriveners to study past cases. The association will be upgraded to an incorporated body in September.
Ito has been involved in cases where family members who were close enough to go on trips together ended up breaking off relations over inheritance disputes. Many of his clients tend to bring up these old wounds during consultations.
“That guy had been given a piece of land when (the deceased) was still alive,” one complained. In another case, a beneficiary complained that only one of the siblings had gotten to go to a university.
After witnessing such fights, Ito found that winning an inheritance dispute at the expense of family rarely leads to client happiness.
According to an association of judicial scriveners in Aichi, inheritance conflicts tend to surface in cases when the deceased had remarried, as children from the previous marriage suddenly emerge to seek their share. Contacting the beneficiaries may also be difficult in such cases.
Beneficiaries may clash over how to split real estate, stocks or other financial assets. If the deceased was bedridden and cared for by a family member, that person may resent other kin claiming a share of the inheritance.
“If it is difficult for beneficiaries to resolve the problem on their own, they can ask a family court for arbitration or a local bar association for mediation. But those (arbitrations) aren’t legally binding, making it hard to resolve the problems,” a judicial scriveners association official said.
According to the Nagoya Family Court, more than 600 requests for inheritance arbitration have been filed annually since 2008.
The main problem is that there are extremely few professionals who are knowledgeable about this issue.
“Lawyers well-versed in civil law are not always familiar with inheritance law and real estate. And tax accountants familiar with inheritance law do not know much about civil law or real estate,” Ito explained.
That is why Ito thought of establishing an organization where experts from different fields can come together to discuss their cases, find ways to prevent unnecessary trouble and find solutions that will be satisfactory to all parties involved.
His decision to gather professionals from various industries eventually led to the creation of the association in November, with Ito at the helm.
“Inheritance issues cover a wide range of areas. I would like to establish the ‘study of inheritance’ and publish our findings so that we can better inform the public, and maybe even propose revisions to the current inheritance system,” he said.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published July 24.