Vietnamese siblings take inheritance drama to court

By Thanh Lam   March 7, 2024 | 04:40 pm PT
Nine siblings in the northern Bac Giang Province are fighting in court over a 6,300-sq.m land inheritance that was left without a will by their deceased parents.

The case, which went to court last month, centers around the family's eldest son, Quach Van Hien, 68, who has been accused by his seven sisters and their youngest brother of attempting to snatch up the entire inheritance for himself without having contributed anything to the expenses of work involved in the upkeep of the property.

Hiep Hoa District People's Court opened the civil lawsuit on Feb. 23 aiming to resolve disputes related to the division of the inheritance.

The plaintiff representing the eight siblings is the second eldest sister, Quach Thi That, 71, and the defendant is Hien.

The inheritance includes a significant amount of land and a house.

Despite the siblings' collective effort to maintain and upgrade the family home, tensions arose regarding the distribution of assets, leading to the legal battle.

According to the lawsuit, the parents had nine children: two boys and seven girls, with That being the second eldest and Hien being the eldest son and the third child.

Since 1994, after the eight older children had started their own families, the parents lived with the youngest son, Hau, in the family's now-disputed house.

The father died in 2001 and the mother continued to live with Hau, his wife, and children.

"Everyone in the family felt reassured that my parents lived with Hau and his wife," stated That in the lawsuit.

At the end of 2015, the mother died without leaving a will. The assets she left behind included savings of VND230 million (US$9,288), the family's house and five plots of land totaling 6,377 square meters, of which 360 square meters are residential land and the rest farmland. All of the funds and assets are in the mother's name.

According to the lawsuit, in 2018, the seven sisters agreed to pool their resources to rebuild the house so that Hau's family could continue to live there and at the same time, and so the house could serve as a gathering place for the extended family, as well as a place for the family to worship their deceased parents.

As originally planned, the construction and finishing costs exceeded VND900 million, and aside from the savings left by the parents, the seven sisters contributed VND80 million each, while Hau paid VND600 million.

The payment has been confirmed by the contractors and the material supplier.

The plaintiff claims that the eldest son, Hien, "did not contribute finances or effort" towards the construction process.

But in February 2021, he returned from Hanoi, "intentionally took possession [of the house], used it, and expelled everyone from the house."

"Currently, all the assets left by my mother and all land use rights certificates are being occupied, managed, and used by Hien," That stated in the lawsuit.

Quach Van Hien points at the disputed farmland of his family in Bac Giang Province, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Danh Lam

Quach Van Hien points at the disputed farmland of his family in Bac Giang Province, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Danh Lam

The court in Hiep Hoa District has been asked to intervene and divide the assets according to the law, with the seven sisters expressing a preference for receiving their share of the inheritance in kind.

That has accused her younger brother Hien of unauthorized construction, demolition of existing structures, and adding new constructions, which have affected the disputed assets.

"There are signs of conducting procedures to change the land use rights certificates," she claimed.

On the other hand, Hien has claimed that the situation has put him to significant distress, stating that he feels wrongly accused by his sisters and insists on his right to the property based on traditional practices and verbal declarations by the now-deceased parents.

He argued that the land and assets were meant to be his responsibility, especially in performing ancestral rites, according to common cultural practices in which the sons of Vietnamese families typically inherit and maintain the family home.

Responding to VnExpress, Hien claimed that the accusations from his siblings are "baseless," intentionally defamatory, and slanderous with malicious intent.

He stated that while his parents were alive, they "often declared" that the estate was for him, as he was the eldest son, so that he would take responsibility for the family’s ancestor worship.

He mentioned that according to local and family traditions, married daughters are considered "settled," and do not have the right to demand a share of the property with their birth family or brothers.

Regarding accusations of contributing nothing but still "returning from Hanoi to seize the ancestral land," Hien said he had regularly returned to worship at his parents' house during traditional festivals and holidays.

As he has become old and weak, he said it was now "natural" for him to return to his hometown to live in the house.

Hien has asserted that the house was "left in writing by the parents" to him. He accused his sisters of infringing on the property by hiring contractors to destroy the premises while he was away.

He also insisted that he is reasonable and "does not begrudge his sisters anything," so when he discovered the situation, he organized a family meeting to divide the property.

For the plot of over 4,650 square meters, where the house and 360 square meters of residential land are located, he said he divided it equally between himself and his youngest brother, given that they are the sons.

The remaining plots were evenly divided among the seven sisters who had married off, according to Hien.

"After reaching an agreement, everyone happily agreed, but a few days later, the sisters 'changed their tune' and wanted to divide everything," he said.

He said he then agreed to divide the inheritance "completely," but was dissatisfied with being slandered by his sisters about his morality. He added that he was unhappy that his sisters had chaotically divided the otherwise harmonious family into factions.

He also said he had done well in business and had always taken care of his parents and siblings.

He argued that after opening a company in Hanoi, he had even created jobs for many family members and now felt "betrayed."

Hien has also sent two complaints to the court expressing his wish to change the jury.

During the trial on Feb. 23, Hien said he had not received the complaint resolution document as requested earlier and wanted to postpone the trial.

The court granted the postponement and the trial will be reopened on March 20.

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