UK ruling may muddy estate battle

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am


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The battle for the estate of Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum could be further complicated by a recent landmark ruling of a probate case in Britain that involved an abrupt change of will.

The British court found last year that a will made by a wealthy racehorse trainer named Neil Adam in Suffolk in 2001 was invalid, although the court acknowledged his lawyer had done 'everything conceivably possible' to prove Adam was mentally fit to declare his wishes.

Shortly before his death, Adam altered his will to cut off his two daughters and give his entire estate to his manager, Robin Sharp, and groom, Malcolm Bryson. The court found it 'surprising' and 'irrational' as there was no evidence of a rift in the father-daughter relationship. The two men also lost their appeal.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the two contentious wills allegedly made by Wang could be treated in a similar way.

'It is an abrupt change from one will which carries reasonable and caring arrangements for her family to another will which devotes the entire estate to a friend, without specifying any provisions for the family. This would call for an explanation or an inquiry,' he said.

Solicitor Billy Ma Wah-yan said that Tony Chan Chun-chuen, declared as Wang's beneficiary last year, would have to apply for a grant of probate from the probate registry as the first step to claim her estate.

But Mr Chan would not be able to gain access to her estate before he could tackle a caveat filed by the Chinachem Charitable Foundation on Thursday that effectively challenges the validity of other claims, the solicitor said. To do so, he would have to provide evidence and call witnesses to prove the authenticity of his will.

At the same time, the foundation has to provide evidence against Mr Chan as beneficiary and convince the court of the authenticity of a 2002 will naming it as beneficiary. Mr Ma said if the court found both wills invalid, the estate would go to Wang's mother. Next in line would be her siblings.

It emerged yesterday that the Kung family believed there could be at least one more will, which would further muddy the picture.