The Yomiuri Shimbun
Reflect needs of graying population in revision of inheritance legislation
相続法制見直し 高齢社会に見合う仕組みとは

It is important to establish a system of inheritance that takes into account the needs of Japan’s rapidly graying society.
急速な高齢化に対応した相続制度を構築することが大切である。

The Legislative Council is gathering opinions from the public regarding a tentative draft put together to revise a Civil Code provision related to the inheritance of property left by the deceased.
法制審議会が遺産相続に関する民法改正の中間試案をまとめ、国民から意見を公募している。

The focus of the draft is to protect the rights of the spouse of the deceased. As one of its proposed measures, the Justice Ministry panel says the spouse’s right of residence should be established. This right would allow the spouse to continue living in the house for a certain period of time, even if he or she does not have the right of ownership.
試案の柱は、配偶者の権利保護である。方策の一つとして、居住権の創設を打ち出した。配偶者が自宅の所有権を有していなくても、一定期間、住み続けることのできる権利だ。

When a couple has no property of any value other than their house, the spouse of the deceased is sometimes forced to sell the house due to the partition of the estate involved. This means that the spouse could end up with no place to live if they are aged and only have a tiny income. Establishing the spouse’s right of residence is expected to help prevent such a situation from arising.
家屋以外にめぼしい財産を持たなかった夫婦の場合、配偶者が遺産分割のために家屋の売却を迫られるケースがある。高齢で収入が乏しければ、住む場所を失いかねない。居住権創設で、こうした事態を防ぐ効果が期待できよう。

The panel’s draft also includes a proposed increase in the spouse’s legal portion of an inheritance.
試案は、配偶者の法定相続分の引き上げにも言及している。

Under the current law, the spouse’s share is fixed regardless of the length of the couple’s married life. However short their marriage is, the spouse inherits half of the property involved if the estate is divided between the spouse and children. With the rise in the number of elderly people who choose to remarry, however, there are growing doubts about this system.
現行法で、配偶者の相続分は、婚姻期間に関係なく、一定している。結婚後の期間がどんなに短くても、遺産を子供と分割する際には、相続分は2分の1だ。高齢者の再婚も増える中、この仕組みを疑問視する声は強まっている。

With this in mind, the panel has proposed increasing the spouse’s portion of an inheritance if the couple is married longer than a certain period of time — for example, 20 or 30 years. Another proposal would raise the spouse’s share in proportion to an increase in the size of the property after the couple married. These proposed ideas have been included in the latest draft.
そこで、結婚から20年や30年といった区切りを設け、それより長くなれば、相続分を増やす。あるいは、婚姻後の財産の増加に応じて相続分も多くする。これらの案を併記している。

It is understandable that the council has sought to make sure the degree of the spouse’s contribution to property accumulation is reflected in his or her portion of an inheritance.
財産形成への貢献度を相続に反映させる狙いは理解できる。

Downside to proposal

The panel’s latest discussions were prompted when the civil law was revised in 2013. In response to a Supreme Court ruling that the disparities in inheritance shares allotted to children born in or out of wedlock were unconstitutional, the pertinent civil law provision was abolished. This drew objections from Diet members of the Liberal Democratic Party and others, who said the legal change could “upset the family system, which is built on legal marriage.”
今回の議論の発端は、2013年の民法改正だった。婚外子の相続格差に対する最高裁の違憲判断を受けて、該当する規定が廃止されると、自民党の国会議員らから「法律婚に基づく家族制度が揺らぐ」といった反発が出た。

Considering the circumstances under which the council began its discussions, the direction of the draft proposal is reasonable, as it clarifies the significance of legal marriage by protecting the rights of the spouse.
そこから検討が始まった経緯に照らしても、配偶者の権利保護を通じ、法律婚の意義を明確にする試案の方向性は妥当だろう。

However, the panel’s proposal involves a downside — the procedures involved would become more complex.
だが、手続きが煩雑になるというマイナスの要素も出てくる。

If the spouse exercises the right of residence for extended periods, it would be deemed that he or she had inherited the bulk of the property involved. How would the value of that inheritance be assessed?
配偶者の居住権行使が長期に及ぶ場合には、相当程度の財産を相続したとみなされるが、その財産価値をどう算定するのか。

The draft also includes a plan to create a mechanism by which anyone, other than heirs to the estate involved, would be authorized to demand monetary payments if that person had rendered services to the deceased person, such as providing nursing care.
試案は、介護などの貢献があれば、相続人以外でも金銭の支払いを相続人に請求できるようにする仕組みも盛り込んでいる。

If the number of people involved in an inheritance increases, feuds among relatives and others would become more common and last for extended periods.
相続に関わる人の範囲が広がれば、親族間などの紛争が増加し、長期化するのは避けられまい。

After studying public opinion, the council will hold further discussions on pertinent issues. The Justice Ministry wants to submit to the Diet a bill aimed at revising the civil law by the end of next year at the earliest.
法制審は、意見公募の結果を踏まえて、さらに議論を進める。法務省は、来年中にも民法改正案を国会に提出する方針だ。

We hope the ministry will work out a new system in a way that attaches importance to procedures that are easy to understand, as inheritance is a personal issue for everyone.
身近なテーマだけに、手続きの分かりやすさを重視して、新たな制度を練ってもらいたい。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2016)

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