In the United States, inheritance is always kept separate from the property division process – but many other countries follow different systems. Although we Americans take many aspects of our divorce law for granted, it’s easy to forget that we are not the only country with a complex system regarding the dissolution of marriages. This was highlighted with shocking clarity after a recent report involving a Chinese man apparently hell-bent on taking his ex-wife’s inheritance. 

Divorcee Seeks $28 Million Inheritance from Ex After Her Parents Die in Car Accident

On December 9th, the South China Morning Post reported that a Chinese man was seeking to get his hands on a share of his wife’s inheritance. She inherited a total of 200 million yuan, which is equivalent to almost $30 million in United States currency. Although this represents quite the windfall, the circumstances of her parents’ death were tragic and unexpected. The couple passed away in a car accident – leaving behind everything to their only child and daughter. The family fortune apparently consists of high-value real estate throughout Shanghai, plus over 10 million yuan in the bank and various investments. 

It seems that her ex-husband now wants a piece of that pie. Six months after his wife became incredibly wealthy, he filed for divorce and claimed that he endured terrible hardships in a “bad relationship.” According to the wife, the divorce filing came as a complete surprise. She allegedly attempted to contact her husband for an explanation, but he refused to take any of her calls – even switching his phone completely off to avoid her. 

Days later, she learned that he had moved out of the family home. A few more days passed, and the man’s lawyers got in touch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they informed the ex-wife of their client’s intent to take half of her inheritance. 

Why Does China Allow Spouses to Split Inheritance?

Allowing spouse to divide their inheritance during a divorce might seem like a completely foreign concept in the United States, but that’s just the way they do things in China. The key aspect of this particular case seems to be the lack of a will. Since the parents died intestate, their inheritance became the “joint property” of both spouses. If they had created some kind of estate plan, their daughter would have held her inheritance with greater ease. 

This story has since gone viral, not just on Chinese social media but also across global platforms. Various commentators have pointed out that this is a textbook example of why wills and estate plans are so important in China. 

Even without a will, this situation seems to fly in the face of common sense – at least in the United States. After all, it seems unthinkable that a parent’s life savings could pass so easily to an ex-husband in China. Clearly, these funds were meant only for the child – not a partner who might abandon a relationship at the first opportunity. If nothing else, doesn’t this blatant legal loophole destabilize the foundational principles of marriage in China?