Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) has proposed an amendment to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) that would shorten the statutory period provided for Chinese heirs to assert claims over the inheritance of deceased veterans in Taiwan from three years to one year, a move aimed at safeguarding the right of inheritance of the legitimate Taiwanese inheritors.
At present, Article 66 of the act stipulates that any Chinese heir of a Taiwanese person who wishes to inherit the estate of the aforementioned person must submit a written statement to the court presiding over the domicile of the deceased’s within three years after their death.
“The people who truly need to access those assets are the numerous widows of veterans who have made a lifetime of sacrifices and are already at an elderly age. If they are forced to wait for another three years to retrieve the estates [after their husbands’ deaths,] they may suffer great hardship,” Tsai said.
Tsai was referring to a disputed handling of assets by the Bank of Taiwan, which, citing the regulation as its legal basis, has been withholding the estates of deceased veterans for three years after their deaths.
The bank would only return the assets to the deceased’s legitimate heirs in Taiwan if no claims on the inheritances from China were made during that period.
The Mainland Affairs Council provided an explanation of the article, which it said did not deprive the right of a deceased’s legitimate Taiwanese inheritor to retrieve the assets.
The Veterans Affairs Commission also has been allocating half of a deceased veteran’s monthly retirement pension directly to his legal spouse, who is, if not remarried, entitled to the monthly compensation until she passes away.
In addition, according to a court ruling on a similar dispute involving the bank by the Taipei District Court in 2003, Taiwan’s civil law adopted the principle of natural inheritance — which automatically entitled a Taiwanese inheritor to the right of succession — while a Chinese heir must make an inheritance claim to obtain the same entitlement. Based on that principle, the court ruled against the bank.
Defying the verdict, the bank remained firm that it would continue to withhold a deceased veteran’s assets for the full three-year period, prompting more legal wrangling by discontented Taiwanese heirs, with many also pleading their cases to legislators.
Several legislators, including former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers Liao Wan-ju (廖婉汝) and Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) and DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌), have received similar petition cases and lobbied against the bank’s controversial policy.
Despite their efforts, the bank was only willing to make a slight concession and give back half of the assets to the deceased’s spouse after an affidavit was signed, with the remaining half still preserved until after the three-year statutory period ended.
“Whether or not a deceased veteran has legitimate heirs in China should be an established fact and a shortened statutory period should therefore pose no damage to their legal rights,” Tsai said.