Civil Code of the People's Republic of China/Book Six
This Book regulates the civil-law relations arising from succession.
The State protects a natural person’s right to inheritance.
Succession begins upon the death of a decedent.
Where two or more persons with the right to inherit each other’s estate die in the same incident and it is difficult to determine the time of each person’s death, the person without any other successor is presumed to have predeceased those with other successor(s). Where the aforementioned deceased persons are from different generations and all of them have other successor(s), the person of the elder generation is presumed to have predeceased those of the younger generation; or, where the deceased are in the same generation, they are presumed to have died simultaneously and no succession occurs between or among them.
An estate refers to the property lawfully owned by a natural person upon death.
An estate not inheritable according to the provisions of law or based on the nature of the estate may not be inherited.
After succession opens, it shall be processed as an intestate succession, or where there is a will, as a testate succession by the successor(s) or donee(s)-by-will; or be processed in accordance with the agreement on testamentary gift for inter vivos support, where there is such an agreement.
A successor who, after the opening of succession, disclaims an inheritance shall manifest his decision in writing before the estate is disposed of. In the absence of such a manifestation, he is deemed to have accepted the inheritance.
A donee-by-will shall, within 60 days after he learns of the testamentary gift, manifest his decision to accept or disclaim it. In the absence of such a manifestation within the specified period, he is deemed to have disclaimed the gift.
A successor is disinherited if he has committed any of the following acts:
(1) intentionally killing the now decedent;
(2) killing any other successor in fighting over the estate;
(3) abandoning the now decedent, or maltreating him and the circumstances are serious;
(4) forging, tampering with, concealing, or destroying the will, and the circumstances are serious; or
(5) through fraud or duress, compelling the testator to write, alter, or revoke a will or interfering with such acts, and the circumstances are serious.
A successor who had committed one of the acts listed in Subparagraphs (3) through (5) of the preceding paragraph may not be disinherited if he truly repented and mended his ways, and was forgiven by the now decedent or was thereafter appointed as one of the successors in the decedent’s will.
A donee-by-will who has committed the act listed in the first paragraph of this Article loses his right to receive the testamentary gift.
Men and women are equal in their right to inheritance.
The estate of a decedent shall be succeeded in the following order:
(1) first in order: spouse, children, and parents;
(2) second in order: siblings, paternal grandparents, and maternal grandparents.
When succession opens, the successor(s) first in order shall inherit to the exclusion of the successor(s) second in order. The successor(s) second in order shall inherit the estate in default of any successor first in order.
“Children” referred to in this Book include children born in or out of wedlock, and adopted children, as well as stepchildren who were raised up by the decedent.
“Parents” referred to in this Book include natural parents and adoptive parents, as well as stepparents who raised up the decedent.
“Siblings” referred to in this Book include siblings of whole blood and half blood, and adopted siblings, as well as stepsiblings who supported or were supported by the decedent.
Where a decedent is predeceased by a child of his, the lineal descendants of the predeceased child shall inherit in subrogation.
Where a decedent is predeceased by a sibling of his, the children of the predeceased sibling shall inherit in subrogation.
Successors who inherit in subrogation generally may only take the share of the estate per stirpes.
Widowed daughters-in-law or sons-in-law who have made predominant contributions in supporting their parents-in-law shall, in relationship to theirparents-in-law, be regarded as successors first in order.
Successors same in order shall, in general, inherit share and share alike.
When distributing an estate, due consideration shall be given to a successor who has special financial difficulties and is unable to work.
When distributing an estate, a successor who has made predominant contributions in supporting the now decedent, or who has been living with the now decedent may be given a larger share.
When distributing an estate, a successor who had the ability and was in a position to support the now decedent but failed to fulfill the duty of support shall be given no or a smaller share.
Successors may take unequal shares upon agreement among them.
An appropriate share of the estate may be given to a person, other than a successor, who has been a dependent of the now decedent, or to a person, other than a successor, who has made considerable contributions in supporting the now decedent.
Any issue arising from succession shall be dealt with through consultation by and among the successors in the spirit of amity, unity, mutual understanding, and accommodation. The time and mode for partitioning the estate and the shares to be distributed shall be determined by the successors through consultation. Where no agreement is reached through consultation, they may apply to a people’s mediation committee for mediation or file a lawsuit with the people’s court.
Testate Succession and Testamentary Gift
A natural person may, by making a will in accordance with the provisions of this Code, dispose of his estate and may appoint an executor in the will.
A natural person may, by making a will, designate one or more of his statutory successors to inherit his estate.
A natural person may, by making a will, donate his estate to the State or a collective, or an organization or individual other than his statutory successor.
A natural person may, in accordance with law, create a testamentary trust.
A holographic will is one written by the testator’s hand and signed by him, specifying the year, month, and day of its making.
A will written on behalf of a testator shall be attested by two or more witnesses, of whom one writes the will, specifying the year, month, and day of its making, and signs it along with the other witness(es) and with the testator.
A will in printed form shall be attested by two or more witnesses. The testator and the witnesses shall sign and specify the year, month, and day on each page.
A will made in the form of an audio or video recording shall be attested by two or more witnesses. The testator and the witnesses shall record their names or likeness in the recording and specify the year, month, and day of its making.
A testator may, when facing imminent danger, make a nuncupative will. A nuncupative will shall be attested by two or more witnesses. When the imminent danger is removed and where the testator is able to make a will in writing or in the form of an audio or video recording, the nuncupative will thus made becomes invalid.
A notarized will is one made by a testator through a notary agency.
None of the following persons is eligible to act as a witness to a will:
(1) a person with no or limited capacity for performing civil juristic acts, or a person otherwise incompetent to attest a will;
(2) a successor or a donee-by-will; or
(3) a person having an interest with a successor or a donee-by-will.
Reservation of a necessary portion of an estate shall be made in a will for a successor who has neither the ability to work nor the source of income.
A testator may revoke or alter a will he has made.
Where a testator who, after making a will, acts inconsistently with the content of his will, the pertinent part of the will is deemed to be revoked.
Where several wills have been made and their contents are inconsistent, the will made last in time shall prevail.
A will made by a person with no or limited capacity for performing civil juristic acts is void.
A will must manifest the genuine intention of the testator, and a will made under fraud or duress is void.
A forged will is void.
Where a will has been tampered with, the affected part of the will is void.
Where a testate succession or a testamentary gift is conditioned upon performance of an obligation, the successor or donee-by-will shall perform the obligation. Where a successor or donee-by-will fails to perform such an obligation without just cause, the people’s court may, upon request by an interested person or a relevant organization, deprive him of the right to inherit the portion of the estate to which performance of the obligation is attached.
Disposition of Estates
Upon opening of a succession, the executor of the will is the administrator of the estate; where no executor is designated in the will, the successors shall elect an administrator in a timely manner. Where the successors fail to do so, all of the successors are co-administrators. Where there is no successor or where all of the successors disclaim the inheritance, the civil affairs department or the villagers’ committee in the place where the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death shall serve as the administrator.
Where a dispute arises over the determination of an administrator of the estate, any interested person may request the people’s court to appoint an administrator.
An administrator of an estate shall perform the following duties:
(1) verifying and making an inventory of the estate;
(2) reporting to the successors about the inventory of the estate;
(3) taking necessary measures to prevent the estate from being destructed,damaged, or lost;
(4) clearing the decedent’s claims and debts;
(5) partitioning the estate in accordance with the will, or in accordance with law; and
(6) performing any other act necessary for managing the estate.
An administrator of an estate shall perform his duties in accordance with law, and shall bear civil liability if any successor, donee-by-will, or creditor of the decedent suffers damage caused by his intentional act or gross negligence.
An administrator of an estate may receive remuneration in accordance with law or based upon agreement.
Upon opening of the succession, a successor who has knowledge of the death of the decedent shall notify the other successors and the executor of the will in a timely manner. Where none of the successors knows about the death of the decedent or is able to make the notification upon learning of the death of the decedent, the organization to which the decedent was employed at the time of his death, or the urban residents’ committee or the villagers’ committee in the place where the decedent was domiciled at the time of his death shall make the notification.
Anyone who has in his possession the property of a decedent shall properly keep such property, and no organization or individual may misappropriate or contend for it.
Where, after a succession opens, a successor who has not disclaimed the inheritance dies before the estate is partitioned, the share that he should have inherited shall be inherited by his successors, unless otherwise provided in the will.
When partitioning an estate, where community property of husband and wife is involved, unless otherwise agreed upon, half of the community property shall be allocated first to the surviving spouse as separate property, while the remaining property shall be part of the decedent’s estate.
When partitioning an estate, where the decedent’s estate is a portion of common property of the family, the portion of the property belonging to the other family members shall first be separated from the decedent’s estate.
Under any of the following circumstances, the affected portion of an estate shall be disposed of as in an intestate succession:
(1) where a successor designated in a will or a donee-by-will disclaims the inheritance or gift;
(2) where a testamentary successor is disinherited or a donee-by-will is disqualified as such;
(3) where a testamentary successor predeceases the testator, or a donee-by-will predeceases the testator or is terminated prior to the decedent’s death;
(4) where a part of a will affecting a portion of the estate is invalidated; or
(5) where a portion of the estate is not disposed of by the will.
When partitioning an estate, a share shall be reserved for a fetus. If the fetus is stillborn, the reserved share shall be disposed of as in an intestate succession.
The partitioning of a decedent’s estate shall be conducted in a way beneficial to production and people’s livelihood, and without diminishing its efficacy.
If an estate is unsuitable for partitioning, it may be disposed of by such means as appraisal, appropriate compensation, or co-ownership.
A surviving spouse who remarries is entitled to disposing of the property he has inherited, free from interference by any organization or individual.
A natural person may enter into an agreement on testamentary gift for inter vivos support with an organization or individual other than a successor. Such organization or individual assumes, in accordance with the agreement, a duty to support the said person during his lifetime, and attends to his interment after death, in return for the right to receive the testamentary gift under the agreement.
Upon partitioning an estate, the taxes and debts payable or owed by the decedent in accordance with law shall be paid out of the estate, provided that a necessary portion of the estate is preserved for any successor who has neither the ability to work nor the source of income.
An estate with neither a successor nor a donee-by-will shall be escheated to the State for public interest purposes. Where the decedent was a member of a collective organization at the time of his death, the estate shall be escheated to the collective organization.
A successor shall pay the taxes and debts legally payable or owed by the decedent to the extent of the actual value of the portion of the estate he inherits, unless the successor pays voluntarily in excess of such limit.
A successor who disclaims an inheritance assumes no responsibility for the payment of taxes and debts legally payable or owed by the decedent.
The execution of a testamentary gift may not affect the payment of taxes and debts legally payable or owed by the donor-by-will.
Where intestate succession, testate succession, and testamentary gift concurrently exist, the taxes and debts legally payable or owed by the decedent shall be paid by the intestate successor(s); such taxes and debts in excess of the actual value of the portion of the estate inherited by the intestate successor(s) shall be paid by the testamentary successor(s) and donee(s)-by-will in proportion to the shares of the estate each of them has received.