I. Preliminary issues to be considered (with or without a Will)
When a person dies, there may be estate (the money in bank accounts, company shares, real estate and other assets, etc.) left under the deceased's name. No matter whether or not the deceased has made a Will, generally a Grant of Representation will have to be obtained from the Probate Registry of the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region before any of the deceased's assets in Hong Kong can be dealt with. A Grant of Representation acts as evidence of a person's right to deal with the estate of the deceased.
There is always a question as to which jurisdiction (which country's law) should govern the administration and succession of estate if some foreign elements are involved. For example, a deceased might have property in a foreign country. Another example is that a deceased, who is not a Hong Kong resident, leaves property in Hong Kong . Generally speaking, the following rules may provide a reference answer:
- Succession to "immovable property" (e.g. flat, building, land) is governed by the law of the place where the property is located. For example, if you (as a Hong Kong resident) own a flat in England, that flat will usually be governed by the succession law of England after your death.
- Succession to "movable property" (e.g. money, company shares, personal belongings) is governed by the law of the deceased's place of domicile as at the date of death. For example, the movable property of a deceased who is a resident of the United States is usually governed by the succession law of the United States, no mater where such property is located.