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Taiwan: Draft Changes to Succession Rules

(Dec. 2, 2007) An amendment to the Civil Code of the Republic of China (on Taiwan) on the rules of inheritance was discussed in November 2007 by the legislature's Judiciary Committee, with a view to protecting minors under 20 years of age and the underprivileged from incurring excessive debt from inheritances. At present, the Civil Code provides that heirs must assume all the rights and duties pertaining to the deceased's estate unless they waive claim to the inheritance or make an inventory of it and apply to the court, within three months of the succession, to limit payment of the deceased's debts to the extent of the inherited property (arts. 1148, 1154, 1156, and 1174). The provisions create an onerous burden, however, for persons who inherited more liabilities than assets, particularly if they were not notified of the death or did not know that they had to take certain legal actions. According to Lin Lu-hong, president of Taiwan Women's link, "[t]here were unbelievable cases in which children inherited huge debts." (MOJ to Protect Heirs from Excessive Debts, 24:45 TAIWAN JOURNAL (Nov. 16, 2007), available at; Civil Code, Part V Succession: Chapter II Succession to Property, available at (last visited Dec. 11, 2007).

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ), to obviate the problems caused by the above provisions, has proposed that heirs under 20 years of age or mentally unable to handle their own affairs only be obliged to repay debts within the value of the inherited estate; they would automatically fall under the limited-debt inheritance system and would not have to submit an inventory. The MOJ further recommended that the three-month grace period people have to apply for their inheritance be dated from the time when the heirs learn about the testator's death, rather than the date of the death. The MOJ has called for the amendment to be retroactive for up to three years; therefore an inheritor would have to declare limited inheritance exempting debt repayment by age 17 at the latest. By contrast, Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, who took the initiative for amendment of the law in July 2007, believes that "[a] general amnesty is called for" so that "any minor who inherits a debt should be able to declare limited inheritance at any age" the amnesty should be incorporated in the amendment, he added. In the view of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, however, the amendment as proposed "will seriously affect the creditors. (Ma Wants Minors to Be Free of 'Inherited Debt, CHINA POST, Nov. 20, 2007, available at