A court should not rule that late billionaire Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum's fortune should be managed by a charitable trust given that she specified no such thing in her will, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.
Barrister Frank Hinks QC, for the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, made the remark as the foundation challenged a Court of First Instance ruling that it would hold Wang's HK$82 billion estate as a trustee, rather than as an absolute beneficiary.
Hinks said that when Wang drafted her will in 2002, she stated that she wanted the money to be used for both charitable and non-charitable purposes. But she was not clear on how she wanted the money distributed.
Hinks said the will was "homemade" and not drafted by a lawyer.
"She could have hired one but she elected not to do so," he said. Because of this, he added, "the court should not do what she chose not to do".
Hinks said Wang only stipulated that she wanted to use her fortune to set up a prize similar to the Nobel Prize, and to continue the foundation's charitable work.
Developer Chinachem Group, which made up most of Wang's estate, was worth more than HK$93 billion in 2012, Hinks said. After deducting HK$11 billion in liabilities, the value of the estate was about HK$82 billion.
The group made a profit of about HK$2.5 billion that year, the court heard, but only HK$100 million went to charitable work.
A businesswoman as successful as Wang would not want her money used only for the two purposes she stated in the will, Hinks argued. He said that where uncertainty existed over the will, the court should not order something that was not in the will.
But Simon Taube QC, for the justice secretary, who acts as protector of charities, argued that it was Wang's desire to have her estate used for charitable work and said the lower court was right to rule that the foundation held her wealth in trust.
Court of Appeal vice-president Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau and Madam Justice Susan Kwan Shuk-hing reserved judgment to an unspecified date.
The court battle is the latest of many over the legacy of the colourful Wang, who died in 2007, and husband Teddy Wang Teh-huei. It started with a probate case over Teddy Wang's fortune after he was declared dead in 1999, nine years after he was kidnapped and never seen again. Fung shui master Peter Chan Chun-chuen was jailed last year for using a forged will to try to claim Nina Wang's billions.