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Hong Kong courts

Late tycoon Yu Pang-lin’s entire HK$10 billion estate can go to charity, High Court rules

Yu, who owned kung fu legend Bruce Lee’s former mansion, died three years ago and had said he would donate his earthly possessions to help those in need

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 7:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2018, 8:34pm

A Hong Kong court on Thursday validated the will of late billionaire philanthropist Yu Pang-lin giving his entire estate – worth an estimated HK$10 billion (US$1.28 billion) – to charity.

The judge said the case illustrated “the better part of human personality”.

Yu’s grandson Pang Chi-ping, the sole trustee of the Yu Panglin Charitable Trust, had asked the High Court in 2015 to declare the will made on July 21, 2011 the “true last and final will” of the tycoon, and to override two caveats raised by his son Pang Ah-fan and grandson Pang San-hon. These two family members later declared that they would not challenge the will.

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Yu died three years ago of an undisclosed illness in Shenzhen, mainland China. He was 92.

On Thursday, Pang’s lawyer revealed that the doctor who examined Yu found him to be in a good mental state when he made the will donating all of his assets, which included billions in cash and properties. Among them was Hong Kong kung fu legend Bruce Lee’s former mansion in Kowloon Tong, which Yu bought for about HK$1 million in 1974.

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In granting probate to Pang – a court order authorising him to execute Yu’s will – Mr Justice David Lok observed that probate cases often reflect human personality due to the involvement of family members, with brothers and sisters turning against each other. 

But the present case was different as Yu’s family supported his charitable intentions to donate his full estate to the Yu Panglin Charitable Trust. 

“It brings out the better part of human personality,” the judge said. 

Yu, a native of Hunan province, worked as a reporter in Shanghai before moving to Hong Kong in 1958. He had a stint as a toilet cleaner but later built his fortune in the hotel and property business.

He was the chairman of Foo Tak Development Company, president of Yu’s Charitable Foundation, and chairman of Shenzhen Panglin Hotel.

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It is believed his estate is worth over HK$10 billion.

Yu topped the 2006 Hurun Chinese Philanthropist List – a Chinese Forbes list of fortune – when he gave away 2 billion yuan (HK$2.5 billion). He was named one of the world’s top 14 philanthropists by Time magazine in 2007, together with Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka-shing.

While alive, he declared he would leave his estate “both real and personal whatsoever and wheresoever to” the charitable trust he established in January 2009.  

“Doing philanthropic work is the secret of my longevity,” he once said.

In 2008, he had plans to sell the Bruce Lee house to raise funds for victims of the Sichuan earthqauke that year, but scrapped the idea when fans urged him to restore and preserve the property.

He later proposed transforming it into a Bruce Lee museum complex equipped with a cinema, library and martial arts centre. But his plan was rejected by the government.