Writing a valid will in Japan (2)


Types of wills in Japan


If you live in Japan and have a nationality in another country, you have a choice to comply with, at least, either the laws of Japan or those of the country of your nationality with regard to the forms of wills when you make a testament. (For the details, see the previous blog article.)


If you choose to comply with the laws of Japan concerning the form of wills, you must know the types of wills allowed in Japan.


There are seven (7) types of wills including wills which are created in certain emergency situations but you only need to know two:

(I) Wills certified by a public notary (公正証書遺言; Kousei-shousho Igon); and

(II) Hand-written wills (自筆証書遺言; Jihitsu-shousho Igon)


I strongly recommend you to make type (I) wills if your country do not have family register or it is difficult to access to family register documentation due to the first point of the following advantages.


The advantages about type (I) wills are as follows:

  • If you are from the country with no family register, your heirs will have difficulty in presenting to the Japanese court that they have the exhaustive list of heirs when they receive a probate of your testamentary document in the court. (For the details, see this blog article.)
  • Since a public notary in Japan is a retired judge or prosecutor who is familiar with laws and are able to review your writings and give you exact advice on how to correct it if there are any mistakes or misunderstandings of the law.


Some drawbacks about type (I) wills are:

  • It must be in Japanese. So you need to bring an interpreter to a notary public’s office if you do not understand Japanese.
  • You need to bring two witnesses to sign the will in front of the notary public.
  • It also cost you an extra fee (besides an attorney fee if you hired one) paid to a notary public’s office depending on the amount of your assets.


The pros and cons of the type (II) wills are vice versa, as you can imagine. Their advantages are:

  • You can write it in your own language, not in Japanese.
  • You only have to sign it and do not have to use a seal if you are an alien.

    (Article 1, Act on Signatures and Seals and Insolvency Certificates in Relation to Foreign Nationals)

  • You do not need witnesses so you can keep its contents secret.


Their major negative points are:

  • It needs to be granted a probate by a court after your bereavement to be valid. And in that proceedings, one of your heirs have to present the court the exhaustive list of heirs with proof, which might be very difficult and time-consuming for some of the countries you might belong.
  • there are some strict rules about writing a type (II) will, and you need to meet all the requirements to make your will valid.


In the next article, I will write about how to write a type (II) will.


Stay tuned!


Note: This article reflect the amendments made recently to the laws of wills which are already in force.