Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Most children still live under shadow of inherited debt

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite amendments to the Civil Code last year to prevent children from inheriting debt, the Taiwan Fund for Families and Children (TFCF) found that more than 90 percent of children born into debt continued to suffer.

“We had hoped that children would be spared the burden of inherited debt from deceased family members when the limited inheritance clause was added to the Civil Code on Jan. 4 last year,” TFCF executive director Miguel Wang (王明仁) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. “A year has passed and sadly most children born into debt are still suffering from it.”

The amendment stipulates that an inheritor may apply for a waiver within three months of a family member’s death if the deceased had more debt than assets. He or she can also only pay off a debt equivalent to the inherited assets.

But there are problems.

“For many people, the three-month period may have long passed and it’s unreasonable for one to have to make an application to give up inherited debt,” Legal Aid Foundation secretary-general Kuo Chi-jen (郭吉仁) said.

Many people do not understand the process, he said.

“It’s an outdated concept that children have to inherit debt from their parents. Everyone should be responsible for his or her own debts only,” he said.

Tracking 350 children born into debt since before the amendment was adopted, the TFCF found that 98 percent were still living with inherited debt, while 2 percent managed to have the debt erased after negotiations with banks.

“It’s quite difficult to ask a bank to forgive debt,” Kuo said.

To help resolve the problem, Children’s Bureau officials have agreed to assist children with the negotiation process.

Wang, however, didn’t think this was enough.

“The matter can only be resolved if the legislature revises the law [to get rid of debt inheritance altogether],” Wang said.

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