"Four years ago I divorced and subsequently remarried," Chiba resident Masao Kikuchi tells Flash (Jul 28-Aug 4). "I wanted to be able to stipulate how to divide my assets among the child I had by my first wife, and the two children by my second wife, and to two other children she'd had prior to our marriage. And I wanted to avoid disputes over their inheritance."
Many Japanese fail to make legal arrangements before their death, and as a result the courts are jammed with litigation between siblings and other heirs.
"Leaving a will is important," says attorney Ayako Kino. "But even when they have been drawn up, we find cases where a document can't be located, or they're concealed by another family. Or the document is suspected to have been forged. So to avoid these kinds of problems, a new system was adopted from July 10, that provides for retention of sell-drafted wills.
"This new service will be convenient in reducing the risk of disputes over inheritances."
Hearing about the system, the aforementioned Kikuchi wasted no time, completing a one-page handwritten will on lined note paper that stipulates the division of his property between the child born to his first wife, the two children born to his second wife, Akari, and two more children who accompanied Akari from her previous marriage -- a total of five.
"Actually due to circumstances involving Akari's two children, I have not yet been able to formally adopt them," Kikuchi relates. "That means if I were to die now, they would normally be excluded from inheritance. But I wanted to bequeath shares to the child with my first wife, and the two that my second wife brought to our marriage. The new system provides for this, which is why I decided to write up my will right away."
The procedure is fairly straightforward and involves first making an appointment with the local legal affairs bureau (homukyoku) where one is registered as a resident. As soon as the new system was announced, there was a rush for appointments, and many people were surprised to be told they would be put on a waiting list.
In preparation, Kikuchi was obliged to attach documents certifying his ownership of nine items of real estate, among which one was located under the jurisdiction of Katori City on Chiba Prefecture. Kikuchi made a reservation at the local bureau for 9 a.m.; but at 9:30 he and his wife departed.
"They wouldn't accept it because I made a mistake in the documentation," he explained. "I'd brought a handwritten will, photo ID (driver's license) and 3,900 yen in revenue stamps, but found out I was also required to submit an application form and a copy of my residence registration. They can give you an application form at the bureau, but my residence registration had to come from another place.
"The official at the counter was extremely considerate," he noted.
After procuring the required document, Kikuchi and his spouse returned to the bureau and 40 minutes later emerged smiling, his mission accomplished.
"I'm relieved it was accepted," he tells the magazine. "If anything happens to me, I'm now able to convey my intentions to the children. And what's more, after a person who leaves the will expires, the legal affairs bureau will notify the beneficiaries.
"Even, for example, if I were to die in an accident in some distant place, or if a beneficiary were living abroad, he or she would be notified."
Kikuchi was pleased that the system also allows his designated heirs to view the will, and that revisions or deletions are permitted.
"It's a good system," he nods, although attorney Kino cautions that it can be invalidated if it doesn't adhere to the required format.
"A detailed example of a self-drafted will is shown on the bureau's home page," she advises, adding, "It's also a good idea to confirm the contents with an attorney or legal scrivener."
An accompanying sidebar introduces a "time capsule" service made available from LINE that enables easy posting of drafts of wills, which can facilitate bequeathments to friends or individuals who are not normally treated as legitimate heirs. The service, according to its provider Uniquest Inc, has so far attracted over 10,000 people, mostly those in their 40s and 50s.© Japan Today