Gender and Land Rights Database

Republic of Korea

Inheritance legal mechanisms

The Civil Act, 1948 as amended in 2007:

  • In the absence of a will, the law prescribes the proportions inherited. First, the children and spouse inherit; they are entitled to one half of the estate. Children inherit an equal amount among themselves regardless of gender. In their absence, the spouse inherits, while one third is reserved for parents or siblings. If two or more co-heirs exist of the same rank, their shares are equally divided, but the portion inherited by the spouse is fifty percent greater than the portion inherited by the co-heirs. In the absence of brothers or sisters, the collateral blood relatives within the fourth degree of the deceased inherit (22).
  • Any person who is entitled to a reserved portion can demand to receive their inheritance by law (22).
  • Any person over the age of 16 can make a will using the methods prescribed by law. A will is invalid unless written in ways prescribed by law (22).
  • There are no restrictions on the age of heirs. A child who is not of legal age can inherit real property; however, if such property is registered in the name of the child, or sold, then a person with parental authority or a guardian must represent the child. Parental authority in respect of the child is vested in his/her parent. In the absence of a parent, or if the parent is not qualified to exercise his/her authority, the child must be represented by a guardian. A guardian may be appointed in a will, or by a parent exercising his/her authority among people who have a kinship with the child, or else a guardian may be appointed by the court (22).

In 2005, the Constitutional Court abolished the family headship system, whereby inheritance moved from male head of the household to his son, on the account of unconformity to the Constitution. This amendment to the Civil Law has gone into effect in January 2008 (13).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography