News & Events

High Court removes executor of high value estate

On 30 June 2022, the High Court handed down its reasons for judgment in Lau Tung Hoi Kent v Lau Tung Kuen [2022] HKCFI 1921. Au Lut Chi and Griffith Cheng represented the Plaintiff. They removed the Defendant as executor of the estate in question. The Plaintiff is the younger brother of the Defendant and a beneficiary of the estate under Will.

Essentially, the Plaintiff complained that there was a complete lack of distribution of the assets of the estate by the Defendant since his appointment. He raised the further issues of conflict of interest, problematic accounting and distrust and animosity between the parties. The Defendant submitted on the other hand that there was a family arrangement in place stipulating that distribution of assets would be paused. He further argued that while his administration was imperfect, it was not a sufficiently serious case to justify his removal. Finally, he claimed that he was ready and willing to responsibly discharge his duties, citing certain remedial steps.

In ruling against the Defendant, the learned Recorder made the following findings on the evidence: (1) the purported family arrangement did not exist; (2) the Defendant failed to satisfactorily explain the delay in administration; (3) the Defendant failed to keep proper accounts; (4) the Defendant placed himself in a potential conflict of interest; and (5) there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between the parties.

More particularly, as a matter of law, the learned Recorder explored the significance of the choice of the testator and the limitations of that factor, citing Williams, Mortimer and Sunnucks. The fact that the testator has chosen the executors in question is capable of being relevant, for no other reasons that he may be expected to have had knowledge of the characters, attitudes and relationships involved, although if circumstances have changed radically since the appointment, that would be a countervailing consideration.

Au Lut Chi and Griffith Cheng were instructed by Henry Chiu & Partners. The Court’s reasons for judgment can be found here.

LC was called to the Bar in 2013. He has a civil practice and is regularly instructed in contentious probate, administration of high value estate, trust, land, commercial, civil fraud litigation and personal injuries matters.

He advises and appears in court in relation to Beddoe orders and other applications in administration under RHC O.76 and O.85, the Probate and Administration Ordinance (Cap. 10), the Intestate Estate Ordinance (Cap. 73) and the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Ordinance (Cap. 481).

LC is a contributor to numerous practitioner’s texts, including the Hong Kong Civil Procedure and Atkin’s Court Forms Hong Kong (Companies (General)).

View LC’s profile for more details.

Griffith was called to the Bar in 2020. He is developing a predominantly civil practice spanning across wills and probate, trust, insolvency/bankruptcy, family, land, civil fraud, tort and general commercial matters.

Griffith is regularly instructed to appear before all levels of court as led junior or sole advocate.

Griffith has published in peer reviewed journals and contributed to Annotated Ordinances commentaries.

View Griffith’s profile for more details.

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