Son of tycoon's concubine wins HK$29m fight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2007, 12:00am

A university professor and son of a concubine has walked away with about HK$29 million after an acrimonious court battle with five half-siblings over the estate of his father.

Ip Wai-hung, an associate professor at Polytechnic University's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, yesterday was awarded all of Yip Keung's estate.

In what Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung described as 'a very unfortunate case', Mr Ip, the only child of Yip's concubine, claimed to be sole beneficiary of a January 1999 will leaving nothing to the five children from his father's original marriage.

The will had been prepared by a barrister friend of the professor's, Anita Ma, based on instructions received during a meeting at a dim sum restaurant some time before.

The will had been signed by Yip at a small cafe near his home in Whampoa Garden in the presence of Ms Ma and a Mr Liu; a 'buddy' of Mr Ip.

Yip died on August 30, 2003, after suffering a stroke in 2001. He had been cared for at St Teresa's Hospital, incurring costs of about HK$7 million between the time of his stroke and his death.

Immediately after the stroke the family discovered Yip had been maintaining a third woman, with whom he had two adult children.

Those children did not take part in the action over the will, although it was they who insisted he be cared for at St Teresa's instead of at a public hospital. Mr Ip and the children from the marriage proper had been afraid the cost of treatment would whittle away at the estate, so much so that the matter ended in a court battle.

Mr Ip had never mentioned the will until after his father's death. He had even kept his own wife in the dark.

There was never any dispute between the parties as to the will being genuine. At issue was the manner in which it came to be signed and whether Yip had understood the document.

The judge yesterday noted that while it was suspicious that all the other children had been dispossessed, he was satisfied that Ms Ma and Mr Liu were being honest and truthful when they told the court they had no reason to believe Yip did not understand what he was signing. It was acknowledged Yip had his wits about him until the stroke two years later.

'On the evidence before me, there is simply no, or quite insufficient, evidence to suggest the deceased did not possess a sound mind [at the time],' Mr Justice Cheung said.

While the circumstances of the will could not be adequately explained, the law recognised that people often left behind inexplicable directions for disposing of their estates. The judge awarded the estate to Ip, but said he could 'imagine the huge disappointment and feelings of hurt and even anger that the [children from the original marriage] must have experienced'. He ordered their costs be paid out of the estate.