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What Is the Law of Inheritance in China? - CFM 101 Series

Thu, 03 Mar 2022
Contributors: Meng Yu 余萌
Editor: C. J. Observer


China used to have Inheritance Law (Law on Succession). However, after the promulgation of the Civil Code in 2020, China has only the “Book VI Succession” in the Civil Code. In other words, the inheritance law became a part of the Civil Code.

This post was first published in CJO Family, which is committed to providing consulting services China-based cross-border family matters services, including marriage and succession.

“Book VI Succession” is divided into four chapters: General Provisions, Statutory Succession, Testamentary succession, Legacy, and the Disposition of the Inheritance.

We have selected some noteworthy points as follows:

1. Succession begins at the death of a decedent.

After the succession has commenced, the inheritors shall handle the inheritance of the decedent according to the rules of statutory succession. However, if there is a will or a legacy-support agreement, the inheritors shall handle the inheritance according to such will or legacy-support agreement.

2. The rules for statutory succession are as follows:

(1) Men and women are equal in the rights of succession.

(2) Inheritance shall be inherited in the following order of priority: the first-order inheritors including spouses, children, and parents; second-order inheritors including siblings, grandparents, and maternal grandparents.

(3) After the succession has commenced, the first-order inheritors shall inherit to the exclusion of the second-order inheritors. If there are no first-order inheritors, the second-order inheritors shall inherit.

(4) Inheritors in the same order shall, in general, inherit in equal shares.

(5) Children include children born in wedlock, children born out of wedlock, adopted children, and stepchildren in a maintenance relationship. They have equal status.

(6) Parents include biological parents, adoptive parents, and step-parents having a maintenance relationship. They have equal status.

(7) Siblings include siblings with the same parents, half-siblings, adopted siblings, as well as step-siblings in a maintenance relationship. They have equal status.

3. Testamentary succession

Testamentary succession refers to that a natural person makes a will in accordance with the methods prescribed by law to dispose of personal properties and may appoint an executor of the will. If there are several wills and their contents contradict each other, the last will shall prevail.

4. Legacy-support agreement

A legacy-support agreement refers to an agreement signed by a natural person with an organization or individual other than an inheritor. According to the agreement, the organization or the individual shall assume the obligations to take care of the life of the natural person and handle the work related to his/her death as well as the funeral. Based on performing the obligations, the organization or the individual may enjoy the right to legacy.

5. The deceased with no heirs

Any inheritance which is left with neither an inheritor nor a legatee shall be owned by the State and used for public welfare undertakings.

6. Debt inheritance

An inheritor shall pay off the taxes and debts that the decedent should pay according to the law within the limit of the actual value of the inheritance obtained.



The Cross-border Family Matters 101 Series (‘CFM 101 Series’) provides an introduction to China-related cross-border family matters (marriage and succession), and covers the knowledge essential to cross-border family matter management.


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Photo by Rob Nohava on Unsplash

Contributors: Meng Yu 余萌

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