It took a strong-minded grandson to ensure a Hong Kong man’s wish to bequeath his entire wealth to charity was honoured, in the face of potential opposition from other members of the family.
Yu Pang-lin, a property and hotels tycoon who died in 2015 at the age of 93, pledged his lavish house and his entire fortune – estimated to be worth AU$1.6 billion – to a charitable trust he established in January 2009.
The Hong Kong billionaire, who was born in the Chinese mainland and started out as a cleaner before building his business empire, was a generous donor during his life, having said that “doing philanthropic work” was the secret to his longevity. It was a dedication to helping the less privileged that saw him listed as one of the world’s top philanthropists by Time magazine in 2007.
Luckily, the savvy billionaire appointed Pang Chi-ping, identified in Hong Kong reports as either Yu’s grandson or great-grandson, as the sole executor of his will. It turned out to be a good choice, as one of Yu’s own sons and another grandson filed legal caveats that would have opened the way for them to challenge the will.
In Hong Kong, will caveats are often sent off to inform the Probate Registry that there are others to consider before processing with the will. This puts a stop to any money being released from the estate until the issue can be resolved, and those who filed the caveats can decide to contest the will later. In this case, the billionaire’s second son and grandson – the two who filed the caveats- could have claimed half Yu’s fortune, according to sources that spoke to the local news site Ejinsight.
Pang asked the high court to declare his great-grandfather’s 2011 will as the “true last and final will”. In the face of Pang’s fervent support of his grandfather’s wishes, both the relatives decided that they would not challenge the will.
Judge David Lok, who oversaw the case, said to the family’s willingness to honour Yu’s wishes showed the “goodness in humanity”, rather than the “ugliness ” he typically saw in probate cases.
“I often see relatives and families squabble over wealth. Siblings no longer talk to each other. Although I cannot really describe a person’s death as something joyous, I am happy to deal with a case like this,” he added in court, according to reports.
This is not this first time a grandchild has stepped in to defend their grandparents’ best interests. In January 2018, a report by the ABC revealed that one elderly Perth couple with dementia had a staggering $1.6 million of their own savings taken by their three sons. The couple, who are in their 80s, both suffer from dementia and were represented by their granddaughter, who managed to retrieve the funds.
The granddaughter became concerned by some of the transactions her father and uncles were making and interceded on her grandparent’s behalf. The ABC reported that the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) found that the couple were the victims of “questionable transactions” and appointed the Public Trustee as an administrator, refusing the sons’ guardianship applications.