Creating a Will in Japan

leaving a will in japan1.Types of Wills in Japan

When you wish to draft a will in Japan, it is essential to adhere to the specific format prescribed by the Japanese Civil Code. Failure to do so may render the will invalid. The Civil Code outlines seven forms of wills, but the two most commonly utilized are the ‘Holograph (Handwritten) Will’ and the ‘Notary Deed Will.

i) Handwritten Will (Holograph WILL)

This form of will comes into effect when the testator personally handwrites the complete text of the will, including the date and their name, and affixes their seal (hanko) to it. A change in the law in 2019 permits the use of a computer to create and print certain sections of the will, specifically the list of assets.

Advantages of a ‘Holograph Will’ include:
— No need for witnesses or observers
— Simplicity and cost-effectiveness

However, there are also disadvantages:
— Vulnerability to loss, forgery, and falsification
— Risk of invalidity due to errors in form
— Potential for family disputes over the interpretation of expressions in the will
— Must be handwritten

ii) Notary Deed will

A Notary Deed will requires the testator to visit the office of a notary (“Koushounin” in Japanese). It involves two or more witnesses, with a notary overseeing the process and recording the will. A copy of the will is retained in the notary’s office, making it the safest and most reliable option.

Creating a ‘Notary Deed Will’ typically incurs a cost depending on the value of the assets to be included in the will. However, this method carries minimal risk of family disputes, often outweighing the additional expense. In fact, ‘Notary Deed Wills’ are approximately six times more prevalent than ‘Handwritten Wills’ in Japan. In general, ‘Notary Deed Will’ is considered superior to ‘Holograph Will.’

Due to these reasons, we typically recommend ‘Notary Deed Wills’ for those considering making a will in Japan.

2. Distinction between Wills and “Statutory Inheritance (Legal Portion)”

We occasionally receive inquiries such as:

“My Japanese husband left a will leaving all his assets to our first-born son, but I believe I have the right to half because I am his wife.”

When the deceased individual is a Japanese national, Article 900 of the Civil Code stipulates that the wife is entitled to half of the inheritance. However, this article applies only in the absence of a will. Inheritances subject to Article 900 are referred to as ‘statutory inheritances.’ In this case, since there is a will, Article 900 does not apply.

Nevertheless, it may be possible for the wife to claim a portion of the husband’s assets through the article concerning “Iryubun” (legally reserved portion) in the Civil Code. In the scenario described, the wife has a right to one-fourth, calculated as follows:

1/2 (Statutory inheritance) ×1/2 (Rate of Statutory reserved share) = 1/4 (Statutory reserved share)

3. Wills for Foreign Residents

Foreign residents in Japan can also create wills. If you are a foreign resident with assets (such as bank accounts and real estate) in Japan, it is advisable to consider drafting a will in Japan. This makes it significantly easier for your heirs to navigate Japanese legal inheritance procedures. The absence of a will can lead to numerous challenges. It is strongly recommended to have the will notarized at a public notary office (koushou-yakuba).

4. General Costs for Creating a Will

While you can draft a will on your own, it is recommended to do so in the Japanese language to facilitate legal proceedings in Japan for your heirs. If you opt to engage an attorney to create the will, the typical costs are as follows (Please note that these amounts are for reference and may vary depending on the circumstances):

Simple Wills (e.g., for bank accounts and a real estate only)

Property ValueAttorney Fee
Less than 3,000,000 yen165,000 yen
3,000,000 yen to 30,000,000 yen220,000 yen
30,000,000 yen to 300,000,000 yen275,000 yen
Over 300,000,000 yen330,000 yen

Other Wills

Property ValueAttorney Fee
Less than 3,000,000 yen330,000 yen
3,000,000 yen to 30,000,000 yen1.1% of the value + 297,000 yen
30,000,000 yen to 300,000,000 yen0.33% of the value + 528,000 yen
Over 300,000,000 yen0.11% of the value + 1,188,000 yen

If you require an English translation of the Japanese Will, additional fees will apply.

Cost for Notarization (at the Notary Public office)

Typically ranges between 20,000 yen to 200,000 yen, depending on the value of the assets and the number of heirs.

See this page for general information.
Cost for Creating a NOTARY DEED WILL

Related pages