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The Intra-Family Division of Bequests and Bequest Motives: Empirical Evidence from a Survey on Japanese Households

Junya Hamaaki, Masahiro Hori and Keiko Murata

ESRI Discussion paper series from Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

Abstract: The division of bequests among family members differs sharply between Japan and the United States. Whereas in the United States, bequests tend to be divided equally among decedents’ children, they tend to be divided unequally in Japan. This paper first tries to answer why this is this case. We start by arguing that certain legal and institutional aspects that lead to equal bequests in the United States are not present in Japan. We then investigate patterns of bequest division in Japan to understand parental bequest motives. In particular, we compare the division of bequests in primary and secondary inheritances to examine parental motives and the role of traditional family values in Japan. While in the case of both “primary” and “secondary” inheritances (referring to inheritances where the first parent has died and inheritances in which the second parent has died, respectively) the patterns of bequest division in Japan look generally consistent with a variety of parental bequest motives proposed in the literature, the role of these motives, especially of the dynastic and strategic motives, is more prominent in primary inheritances, in which the surviving spouse has the opportunity to express his/her intentions. However, Japanese parents, contrary to predictions of the altruism model, appear not to bequeath more to economically disadvantaged children.

Pages: 39 pages
Date: 2016-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-age and nep-sog
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Journal Article: The intra-family division of bequests and bequest motives: empirical evidence from a survey on Japanese households (2019) Downloads
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