When an inheritee dies, coheirs will inherit the property under “joint ownership” according to Art. 898 of the Civil Law Act. However, the court has ruled that divisible credits are not considered to fall under joint ownership but automatically divided at the same time as the commencement of inheritance.
Furthermore, regarding the inheritance of a fixed amount post deposit, scholars and courts are yet to agree whether this claim naturally belongs to each coheir and whether it is an object under the procedure of the partition of estates on the assumption that it is divisible.
Recently, the Supreme Court confirmed that a fixed amount post deposit is not of a divisible nature but belongs to each coheir by way of semi-joint ownership. Furthermore, they explained it must follow the procedure of the partition of estates.
Thus, this case clarifies that this claim (1) does not naturally belong to each coheir and (2) is subject to the procedure of partition of estates.
However, through this case, the following can be considered:
(1) The Supreme Court does not distinctly clarify whether the deposit is a divisible claim or an indivisible claim.
(2) According to the pre decisions of the court, it is logical to solve the attribution problem of joint inherited claims by the relationship of multiple parties (Art. 427-428). However, if it were an indivisible claim, one coheir can obtain an authority of claim regarding all inherited deposits under Art. 428. Thus, it can be assumed that the court used the concept of “semi-joint ownership” to avoid the result of natural division.
(3) Eventually, coheirs with semi-joint ownership are also freely able to exert or depose of their share. However, the decision of the court, which recognized that this claim has to follow the procedure of the partition of estates, may imply that the concept of “joint ownership” in Japan does not have a simple narrow meaning but an extended meaning that includes “partnership-ownership”, which does not permit parties to freely dispose of their share.