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Last Updated May 3, 2010
Relinquishing the rights to inheritance before mother's death

H. Kawarazaki, esq.

I am a naturalized U.S. citizen from Japan.
My mother recently passed away and left property in Tokyo, Japan to me and my sisiters who are still residing in Tokyo.
Since we are not in best of terms, I am experiencing extreme difficulty in getting information from them concerning division of property. It appears to me that they are trying exclude me from the inheritance.
2 years ago I had signed the paper relinquishing my right to inheritance, although my sisiters never mentioned to me how much my mother's estate was worth, therefore I have no idea of what I relinquished.
My sisters had enough time to explain this to me but never did when they well knew the value of the estate. My questions to you is as follows:
  1. Did my signing of relinquishing my rights to inheritance under my two sisiters pressure exclude me from getting my share of the inheritance?
  2. Would I have to return to Japan before case is completed?
I can imagine 2 cases.
  1. One is that your mother left her will in that she gave her property to your sisters and you got the permission of relinquishing the rights to inheritance in family court.
    In this case you have no right to inheritance.
    If I explain accurately, in this case you don't relinquish the right to inheritance. You relinquish "Iryubun" in Japanese.

  2. Other case is that you got no permission of family court or your mother left no such will.
    In this case you still have the rights to inheritance. Because relinquishing the rights to inheritance before the death of your mother is invalid. According to precedents the relinquishing the rights to inheritance done only after the death of your mother is valid .

    If your mother left no will property of the deceased is distributed automatically to the surviving children or spouse in Japan. So you have the right to inheritance.
If judge ask you to make a statement, you must return to Japan. Perhaps you need not return to Japan if you appoint attorney.