What should one do when some of the heirs cannot be contacted?③

How to deal with heirs who cannot be contacted (family registration)

Here are some ways that may be helpful in making contact with the missing heir:


・Trace the family registration to find out the permanent address

・Obtain a family registration tag


Family registration documents can be a powerful clue when searching for missing heirs , thus please check with the city hall first.

How to deal with heirs who cannot be contacted (legal procedures)


After you have tried all you can think of and still cannot reach the missing heir, it might be a good idea to appoint an “absentee property manager”, whose job is to manage and keep the property on behalf of the heir who cannot be contacted.

If the “permission for acts outside the authority” can be obtained from the domestic affairs court, the appointed personnel can also participate in the discussion of the division of inheritance.

In most cases, relatives who receive no effect from inheritance are selected as absentee property administrators. In the case where there are no candidates, the domestic affairs court will appoint an attorney.


If a person has been missing for 7 years or more and his or her life or death is unknown, one can choose to make a “declaration of disappearance”. When a person is officially declared “missing”, by records, it is equivalent to being considered dead.

In inheritance division negotiations, the procedures will be carried out assuming that heir has passed away.

A declaration of disappearance can be filed with the domestic affairs court to which the missing heir’s residence belongs to. Because investigations must be carried out, it could take more than half a year until the decision is finalized. In this case, this strategy may not allow one to meet the deadline for filing inheritance tax, so please use it as a last resort.


Measures to prevent dispute among heirs over inheritance division issues

  Measures to prevent dispute among heirs over inheritance division issues


Gift during lifetime

This points to a gift of property to others while you are still alive.

Because you can transfer your property to descendants before you pass away, the

recipient gains the benefit of being able to use that property for living, education, and other expenses.

Inheritance tax is imposed when a relative dies and property is inherited through inheritance procedures, while inheritance tax is not levied on property gifted during life.

However, if the gift is given to a relative (legal heir) who has the legal right to inherit property, the methods described above may not be valid in some situations.


Exactly what situations?

One situation is when a relative dies within 3 years from the lifetime gift and an inheritance occurs following that.

In other words, it is important to note that lifetime gifts made within 3 years from the start of inheritance are subject to inheritance tax.


Also, even when the gift is not made to a legal heir, for instance to a grandchild, and assuming that the person passes away three years after the gift is given, and the grandchild receives the death insurance money from your death, the inheritance tax will be applied to the property that you had given before your passing.

It is said that giving gifts in lifetime serves to spare the heir of inheritance tax, but as mentioned above, there is still possibility that the system of inheritance tax will change in the future.

It is recommended to consult a tax advisor before taking actions.

Making an official will  

A notarized will is made in a notary public’s office in the presence of two witnesses.

As it is verbally declared by the testator, it is deemed to be more reliable than a will made by a notary public.

The existence and contents of the will are stated clearly, and probate by the domestics affairs court is not required.

The original will is kept at the notary public office (in principle for 20 years), thus alleviating one of worry of falsification or loss.



All heirs must agree on the division of the inheritance. Even relatives who have not been contacted for a long time and cannot be reached for whatever reason, cannot be ignored as long as they possess inheritance rights. Proceeding with the inheritance division negotiations without all eligible heirs present will only invalidate and delay the inheritance procedure.

Therefore, if there is an heir who cannot be contacted, please resolve the problem in a legal and appropriate way.