Girlfriend of tycoon loses probate fight
The long-time live-in girlfriend of the late owner of the celebrated Lin Heung Lau tea house has lost a HK$100 million probate fight with his children.
The Court of First Instance ruled that Yien Chi-ren had revoked his 2003 will, in which he left a quarter of his fortune to Han Yi, with whom he had a 24-year relationship, because she had treated him badly in the five years before his death.
His children told the court that Han yelled at Yien and blamed his incontinence for dirtying the carpet and her clothes.
The judge said such ill-treatment must have been a 'very upsetting experience' for Yien, whom he described as a well-educated and shrewd businessman.
Yien died on March 4, 2008, aged 88, after a stroke. Han, 55, was fighting for Yien's fortune using photocopies of a will he made in 2003 because the original was missing.
Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon ruled in a judgment handed down yesterday that Yien's estate would be distributed equally among his six children from a marriage and another relationship.
He ruled that the disappearance of the will after Yien died was because he revoked it as he was disappointed with Han's treatment.
According to court documents, Han met Yien in 1983 and they started living together the following year. In 2003, Yien made a will in which he left a quarter of his assets to Han and the rest to his first, second and fifth children.
In court Han said Yien did not make provisions for the other children because he was disappointed with them and worried they would squander his money.
But the judge dismissed her evidence as 'biased and coloured' by her own relationship with the three children.
The judge accepted the evidence of Yien's oldest child that her father told her that he learned from Han's brother that Han wanted to 'squeeze everything from him' and as a result he vowed he would not give anything to Han.
Han rejected the children's allegations of ill-treatment as a 'smear campaign' and maintained she had a good relationship with Yien. She testified that he promised in 2007 to leave her a quarter of his fortune.
But the judge wrote: 'If the deceased were so concerned about [Han's] future in the event of his demise ... there was no reason why he did not at least inform her as to the whereabouts of the will.'
Although the judge accepted that the deceased did not have a good relationship with some of the children, their relationships had improved in the years before his death.
'I do not think the deceased was a person who would disinherit a child simply because he did not excel in the manner he hoped.'
The judge also accepted evidence by two of the children that their father had told them he would distribute his assets to all of them because 'after all, they were all his children'.