A recent news report by the Wall Street Journal details the latest turn in a high profile litigation regarding the multi-billion dollar estate of Hong Kong heiress Nina Wang.
Tony Chan, a feng-shui master who claimed he was Ms. Wang’s lover, had petitioned the Hong Kong Court of Appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that had effectively denied him any interest in Ms. Wang’s estate. The Hong Kong Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.
Although Ms. Wang’s fortune had been left entirely to charitable causes pursuant to the provisions of a Will executed in 2002, after her death, Mr. Chan produced a 2006 Will purportedly executed by Ms. Wang that named him as the sole beneficiary of her estate.
Subsequent to the lower court’s decision throwing out the 2006 Will and upholding the 2002 Will, Mr. Chan was arrested for forging the 2006 Will. (As an interesting aside, it was noted in the news reports of this case that Ms. Wang herself had faced accusations of forging her husband’s Will when she inherited his fortune following his death.)
Although the facts of this litigation couldn’t be more dramatic, they do demonstrate some of the unexpected pitfalls (and human frailties) that can create protracted estate litigation even when testamentary wishes appear to be simple and clear.
This litigation also demonstrates the recent trend among high net worth individuals to leave or pledge to leave the bulk of their fortunes to charitable causes. For other examples, see the Giving Pledge website, which sets out charitable giving pledges of this nature made by American high net worth individuals, including Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Laura E. West