Wills in Hong Kong
Wills, probate and succession – wills – execution of will – resolution of disputes over decisions made by executors
Whilst there are numerous benefits in executing a will, the recently decided Court of First Instance case of Tsang Sun Fai v Tsang Sun Wang has emphasized the importance that a will must abide by common law principles.
In the Tsang Sun case, a Mrs. Wong Wah had executed a will instructing three of her seven sons to be the executors and for her estate to be equally divided among all seven sons.
The issue in contention was a particular clause contained in her will which requested for a bank account to be opened in the names of the executors, but specified that this bank account was to be jointly owned by her seven sons. The clause further required that the funds in the bank account be only disposed of if all seven brothers were informed and majority consent (i.e. at least four brothers) was obtained.
In the judgment, the Judge stressed that, by law, executors had to jointly discharge their relevant duties and could not handle matters in accordance with the “majority rules” principle, particularly so when some of those decision-makers were not even executors.
Whilst it might seem to make sense in planning an estate to have a form of a “board of directors” of trusted people who decide to act by a majority, the Court of First Instance confirmed in this decision that executors are required by law to act jointly and unanimously in administering a will.