Inheritance Law in Vietnam

Information on inheritance rights and duties, inheritance law and inheritance taxes and exemptions...

Vietnamese laws apply to inheritance issues by foreigners with assets in Vietnam, a process known as “renvoi.” Jurisdiction belongs to the authorities in the country where the assets are located, so conflicts with the foreigner’s nationality are avoided.

In Vietnam, any property that was acquired before marriage remains under separate ownership after marriage, unless the spouses have agreed otherwise. Any property acquired after marriage is under joint ownership status. International treaty regulations apply if one or both spouses are foreigners.

Immovable property

Note: As of July 1, 2015, laws on foreign ownership have changed. This now means that foreigners may also inherit Vietnamese property in the same way as Vietnamese citizens.

Before any property can be inherited, its ownership must be determined. Documents that prove the identity of the legal owner, including a residential house ownership certificate or land use right certificate, are preferred. If these are not available, Vietnamese authorities will also accept other documents, including sales contracts, wills and offer agreements, provided that these documents show the rights of ownership.

A person may donate property or assets prior to his or her death, as long as the donation is made in writing and has been notarised or certified. The receiver of the gift is required to register ownership of the property.

Heirs

Regardless of the contents of the will, certain persons, known as compulsory heirs, are entitled to inherit the estate of the deceased. The proportion of shares in the estate varies depending on the number of surviving compulsory heirs. Compulsory heirs include:

  • Minor children
  • Father and/or mother
  • Spouse
  • Any adult children who are incapable of working

If the deceased does not grant shares in the estate to any of the compulsory heirs, or grants less than two-thirds of the share than a compulsory heir should have received by law, then those heirs are entitled to claim their portions of the estate unless they have either disclaimed their inheritance or are not entitled to inherit the estate. An heir is no longer entitled to inherit any part of the estate if they can be shown to have:

  • Intentionally caused the death or ill health of the deceased
  • Seriously mistreated or abused the deceased
  • Intentionally caused the death of another heir in order to obtain all or a greater part of their entitlement to the estate
  • Deceived, coerced or obstructed the deceased from making the will
  • Forged, altered or destroyed the will

The exception to this would be if the deceased knew of these actions and still wished to select that person to inherit the estate.

If a minor under the age of 15 years old is involved in inheritance issues or civil transactions, a guardian can be assigned to protect his or her rights. The guardian is usually a relative of the child, but if there is no relative, the communal People’s Committee will nominate one.

Financial trusts do not exist in Vietnamese law, even for Vietnamese citizens. If a person wants to bequeath cash or property to a minor child, the guardian appointed by the person who makes the will may hold the property on behalf of the minor, and any cash can be deposited into a savings account with the executor or guardian appointed to hold the assets until the minor becomes of legal age.

Disputes and claims

If the deceased has a will, the rules of inheritance are determined by the laws of the place where the property is situated (called lex rei sitae), which governs the process of establishing, changing, conducting or concluding the ownership of immovable Vietnamese property.

In the absence of a will, the estate is passed on according to the laws of intestate succession. This is based on the law of the nationality of the deceased (lex nationalist or lex patriae) and the law of the place where the act occurred (lex loci actus) that resulted in the legal claim.

In the event of a dispute, the Civil Court is in charge of inheritance settlements and the allocation of estates.

A Vietnamese will is physically held by either the executor of the estate or by an attorney or other person appointed by the person who made the will. Following their death, the will is carried out at the civil court where the person had permanent residency.

In the case of foreigners, the embassy or consulate representing the nationality of the deceased assists in certifying an heir as well as assisting the executor and helping with the process of distributing the assets of the estate. Probate procedures in Vietnam can be difficult and time-consuming for any non-cash distributions of an estate, even when an heir has been designated before the death of the person who has made the will.

Specific regulations governing inheritance issues for foreigners in Vietnam are included in the following laws:

  • The Law on Land of 2003
  • The Civil Proceedings Code of 2004
  • The Law on Investment of 2005
  • The Civil Code of 2005
  • The Law on Residential Houses of 2006

Inheritance Taxes

Any inherited property exceeding VND 10,000,000 is taxed at a flat rate of 10 percent. However, exemptions from inheritance taxes are made in the case of income from the inheritance of real property to certain people, including:

  • Husband and wife
  • Parents and children, including adopted children and foster parents
  • Mother and father-in-law
  • Children-in-law
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings
This article was prepared with the assistance of AV Law LLC, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.