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.

What should one do when some of the heirs cannot be contacted? ②

 “cannot be contacted” does not mean “abandon of inheritance”


There are some who misunderstand “you cannot be contacted = you abandoned the inheritance”

This is a big mistake.

In order to renounce inheritance, procedures must be carried out in the domestic affairs court.



There are some cases in which due to poor relationship between the heir and the relatives of the deceased, the heir chooses to ignore the contact from the relatives simply to avoid becoming involved.

For example, if the deceased carried debts, no matter how much you ignore the contact, it will not be considered as “renunciation of inheritance”, and you would still inherit the debts.

In any case, when you are contacted regarding inheritance, please complete the necessary procedures as soon as possible.


It is possible to discuss the division of inheritance even if not all designated heirs are present. However, in this case, the content of the discussion is legally invalid. Once again, let’s remember that “cannot be contacted” does not mean “abandon of inheritance”! !

The procedures are being delayed due to the absence of some of the heirs…!


As afore mentioned, when there is a deadline to the inheritance procedures, there are many demerits caused by not being able to get in touch with some of the heirs.

For example, the deadline for renouncing inheritance.

When the deceased carries debt, one can avoid that debt by renouncing inheritance.

However, this can only be carried out within 3 months of knowledge of the commencement of the inheritance. This is the deadline for the procedure.

Some other examples are the declaration and payment of inheritance tax. This can only be carried out within 10 days of knowledge of the commencement of the inheritance.

Do you know what happens if you don’t report by the deadline?

Additional tax due to non-declaration violation may be imposed.


What kind of people cannot be contacted?



Next, let’s go over what kind of people cannot be contacted.

I shall introduce some representative cases.


・relatives with whom one has a poor relationship or has not had contact over a long period

・siblings who have moved without transferring their resident card

・siblings who is not known to be alive or not, and their offspring (representative heir)

・the children of the ex-wife (divorced)

・children born out of infidelity


If any of the above applies to your case, please take measures as soon as possible to deal with the issue.



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What should one do when some of the heirs cannot be contacted? ①



How will it affect the inheritance procedures?


When one’s parents pass away, inheritance procedures are something that cannot be avoided.

In most cases, all eligible heirs must come to an agreement on how to divide up the property

to be inherited.

The deceased should have left behind a formal will of some kind. Or alternatively,

if all heirs are willing to communicate, the dividing of the inheritance should proceed smoothly.


However, there are certain cases where a part of the heirs cannot be reached,

and due to the lack of contact the inheritance procedure is hindered.


The inheritance process has a few stages, and each stage comes with a deadline.

Because the inheritance procedures are carried out while confirming the intentions of all heirs,

if some of them cannot be contacted, the entire procedure would become significantly




Is it possible to proceed with the inheritance even when it is not possible to get in contact with one or more of the heirs?



An inheritance division negotiation is where heirs gather to discuss and agree upon how to

divide the inheritance left by the deceased.


In this situation, it is not allowed to leave out one or more of the heirs and proceed with the

inheritance division discussion, simply because one has trouble making contact with them.


The inheritance division agreement could become invalid


In inheritance division negotiations, if there is a formal will, it basically takes precedence.

However, there are exceptions, such as when the contents of the will are in the following



・Only a part of the inheritance is specified in the will

・One or more of the heirs are not satisfied with the contents of the will.

In this case, all heirs must discuss how to carry out the division in detail, after which all must agree to the division of the inheritance.


Recently more and more people are drawing up a will in order to avoid disputes after they are gone.

However, if even one of the heirs is dissatisfied with the contents of the will, it would obstruct

the negotiations.


The reality of inheritance is that, even if you have prepared a will, it does not guarantee that

everything will fit together smoothly.

That is the reality of inheritance.


Here, “all heirs” includes heirs who cannot be contacted.


In other words, if the inheritance procedures had been carried out while ignore the heirs who cannot be contacted, the agreement surrounding that inheritance would be deemed invalid.


Even if only a part of the heirs reaches an agreement, when the heir who could not be

contacted later appears and claims his or her right, all procedures must be done over from the


There is no deadline for an inheritance division consultation, so nothing can formally stop it

from being redone as many times as needed.


Needless to say, protraction of inheritance negotiations would just increase and prolong the

burden on all heirs.


Once the contents of the inheritance division have been settled through the negotiations, it is

necessary to prepare the inheritance division document which records the contents agreed

upon. Here also, the signatures and seals of all heirs are required, and it is not possible to

exclude those who cannot be contacted.


Without this officially documented agreement, it is not possible to change the name of the

property of the deceased, nor ‘ manage the deposits and savings.


One can say without exaggeration that this inheritance division agreement document is the

cornerstone of the inheritance procedure.

It is strongly recommended to avoid letting thus agreement become invalidated




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