Almost all Chinese seniors stress children’s spouses be excluded from inheritance in wills

The New Paper

Have you ever thought about who will inherit your money and assets after you die?

For many Chinese seniors, it seems they know who exactly will not.

According to a white paper released by the China Will Registration Center, which helps senior citizens draw up inheritance plans, almost all senior citizens have stressed that their children’s spouses should be excluded from any of their assets when they die.

Of the 82,177 seniors aided by the public welfare organisation, 99.93 per cent explicitly stressed that their sons-in-law or daughters-in-law should be excluded from any assets or money left behind, The Global Times reported.

The report also said that senior citizens were specifically leaving their children’s spouses out due to the high divorce rate in China.

A lawyer cited by Chinese current affairs website Sixth Tone said that under the law, assets are not considered marital property if the will or gift contract specifies just one party in a marriage.

Will-writing has always been somewhat of a taboo topic in China, given the traditional view that all topics related to death should not be openly discussed.

In January 2017, it was reported by USA Today that only 1 per cent of the nation’s 220 million seniors had written wills.

But all that has changed recently, with the government encouraging seniors to draw up inheritance plans to avoid family disputes.

A China Daily report in November the same year cited an employee of the China Will Registration Center’s Shanghai branch as saying that the phone at the centre had been “ringing off the hook all day with people wanting to make an appointment“.

Launched in 2013, the organisation has observed that seniors in China are drawing up their wills earlier.

Last year, the average age of seniors seeking help for inheritance planning dropped to 72.09 years old from 77.43 in 2013.

China Daily reported that the white paper stated that 33.53 per cent of senior citizens started writing wills to prevent family disagreements after their death.

Another 30.94 per cent did so to simplify the inheritance process for their next-of-kin.

But many also preferred to keep their children in the dark about their wills. The number who chose to do so to prevent disputes rose from 21.28 per cent in 2013 to 38.31 per cent last year.