Judicial precedent itroduction

A relative and inheritance

1. A lawyer's duties as executor of a will

The Tokyo High Court has ruled that creditors of testators have a claim on estates of the deceased, and as such, creditors have legal standing to sue executors of said estates. Traditionally, although a lawyer's duty as executor of a will covered settlements with creditors, this act was incidental to his principal obligation to beneficiaries of the estate. A lawyer was under no direct obligation to creditors of the deceased and merely distributed property to honor provisions under the will.

Following the Tokyo High Court's ruling, the duty of executors has been extended to creditors of the estate.

2. Usage of trade relied upon to ascertain facts

It is customary in Japan for a notary public, when drafting a will, to hand over a certified copy to the testator while keeping the original document in his possession, and from said original make available additional certified copies to interested parties upon request. To have legal force, these certified copies must include a certain prescribed necessary phrase ascertaining the identity of the actual or potential beneficiary making the request, and be dully signed and sealed by the notary public. In this case, it appeared to the plaintiff as though the original document had lacked the original signature and seal that made the document officially binding, and thus neither the original will, nor the certified copy carried legal weight. The lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, with the Supreme Court reversing, holding that each document was separate unto itself and that it could reasonably be inferred from standard practice of trade, that the original document, though appearing to have lacked the requisite signature and seal, had in fact been dully signed and sealed at the time of execution (drafting), and thus valid. The fact that the certified copy lacked the requisite signature and seal was held but a negligent oversight of the offices of the notary public that occurred at the time of preparing the disputed certified copy.